Rebirth full movie review - Slightly above average, good potential misused...
I really wanted to like this film more than I rated it, a slight 6.
The concept appealed to me: The protagonist is surrounded by abstract situations and aberrant behaving people while they, by contrast, experience everything as being ordinary. Only the protagonist seems to have problems with the conduct of his antagonists and we must watch it, frustratingly. There are not many good films doing this so I gave it a shot.
The film makes it seem as if all the people surrounding the protagonist conspire against him, in some sort of illicit plot to brainwash him. It reminded me of 'The Game' by David Fincher, however, Michael Douglas is way more convincing. In 'The Game' Michael Douglas plays a real emotionally strong character and we witness him breaking down. 'Rebirth' starts off with a real insecure and somewhat awkward main character and this is in my perspective one of it's flaws. There is not much character to break down, the protagonist already seems to be too unable to cope with his changing environment. I mean, you notice this in the opening of the film. You are already watching a guy who is emotionally unstable. So you might think that he might gain some character but this is a disappointing thought.
Of course, why not have an emotionally weak character if it's played well and fits in the overall concept? The performance of Fran Kranz was likable, at some point flavored with humor when it needed to be but it just didn't nail it for me. In two or more situations I really felt I would have reacted differently to the situation, making his insecurity unbelievable to me, on the edge of annoying. His frantic attempt to exit, or rather escape the building, resulting in an endless trip through hallways was really unbelievable to me. He couldn't find the exit and just leave? While being totally sober? Come on... There are so much films doing this better, the sense of claustrophobia or being lost in some place: Fear-X, Into the Void, Psych9, Stay, Limitless whatever. So the whole concept of him trying to escape the building is not conveyed at all while they do show it on screen.It seemed to me that the whole voyage through the building and it's rooms and characters were almost a trip through his mind, or for that matter, the writers mind. The film unfortunately lacked a necessary amount of symbolism to support this.
When disappointment started to emerge the film avoided to become vulgar and cheap and that made me watch it to the end. It started off with so much potential, it was somewhat curious to see it all unfold. The scene in the beginning of the film where they remove the blindfolds had this 'Fight Club' kind of feel about it and really felt genuine. Again, a Fincher title where the film seems to be inspired by. While he is picked on by the leader of the group and used as an example of a rookie, he is drawn away by the attractive blonde. I found this somewhat strange, as the room was really tumultuous. Her voice being very soft made it seem it was only audible to the main character Kyle through the uproar of the audience. This emphasized the 'mind game' what was going on, but as mentioned before, the film does not back this up enough to make it palpable.
The scene where he is hit and emotionally abused by the, presumably, psychologist was really unbelievable to me. I would go along with the mind games of this 'Rebirth' program to some extent, but this was way too belligerent and hostile for me to just stand there. I would have absolutely tried to defend myself.
Towards the end it appears the people behind the 'Rebirth' program stole his identity and bank account information, blackmailing him to do, well, I really did not get to do what. It felt cheap to me, the film didn't need this at all, I needed a more abstract solution to this all. In 'The Game' the protagonist also is led to believe he is bankrupt, but there it's way more significant and convincing.
The film ends with Kyle suddenly being totally integrated in the 'Rebirth' program, somehow as a full fledged member and promoting the whole program. This felt as a unnatural transition and seemed redundant to me; maybe to give some kind of mocking criticism to cults, like Scientology, but it didn't convince me enough. I found the ending not satisfying. It seemed totally misguided here, or maybe it's just me and am I missing something. Still considering a second viewing.
The atmosphere of the film stayed fresh enough, I liked the tension and cinematography and this kept me going, but in the end, slightly above average, considering what could have been done with the concept.