Combustible Celluloid
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With: Thomas Jane, Alice Eve, Tomasz Kot, Rupert Everett, James D'Arcy, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Kylie Bunbury, Annabelle Wallis, Alex Pettyfer, Garance Marillier
Written by: Agata Alexander, Rob Michaelson, Jason Kaye
Directed by: Agata Alexander
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, a sexual assault, some drug use and nudity
Running Time: 85
Date: 10/22/2021

Warning (2021)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Suspect Devices

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This selection of intertwined short sci-fi tales, all having something to do with troublesome technology, vary in quality; there are a few bright, tense moments, but none really packs much of a punch.

In the near future, astronaut David (Thomas Jane) finds himself adrift in space after an accident. A dealer in robot servants (Tomasz Kot) has trouble finding a home for a slouchy robot named Charlie (Rupert Everett), who loves to tell bad jokes. A woman (Alice Eve) relies on a smart device called "God" for her spiritual guidance, and becomes lost when it breaks down. A man (Patrick Schwarzenegger) re-lives his troubled relationship with his ex-girlfriend (Kylie Bunbury) through a VR device.

An immortal man (Alex Pettyfer) brings his mortal girlfriend (Annabelle Wallis) home to meet his family. And a young woman (Garance Marillier) agrees, for a fee, to "rent out" her body to a man; his consciousness will enter her and allow him to enjoy a night on the town. After these stories are told, one more major event occurs to wrap things up.

The astronaut sequence that starts Warning is more harrowing than it is thoughtful, full of existential dread, although it has some fine visual effects. But then the first sequence after it, the "God" smart device story, is lightly comical in tone. They don't match. The rest of the sequences adopt a similar tone, all hopeless in nature, and with little humor and fascinatingly weird set designs, but the sudden endings fall short. The "Charlie" robot sequence especially lets off with a "huh"? It's too bad because Rupert Everett, as Charlie, cooks up an ingenious balance of annoying and piteous.

Moreover, Warning has a rhythm problem. It begins with three intertwining stories, and some seem to be told straight through while others are broken up. It may be almost random, as if the editor left the room and just let the tapes play through, overlapping willy-nilly. When a new story begins at well past the halfway point, it feels jarring, as if it arrived too late to join the party.

The best sequence by far succeeds because of Alice Eve's hilariously detached performance. Her Claire — the owner of the "God" device — seems to exist in a perpetual fog, and her line deliveries, many of them simply giving up with a sighing "okay," hit just the right note for laughs. It's too bad the rest of Warning couldn't have found more of a tone, or a point.

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