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  • Part murder-mystery, part esoteric cosmological rumination, part metaphysical neo-noir, Carol Morley's Out of Blue is a complete shambles. That this is so gives me no pleasure at all, as I'm a big fan of both Dreams of a Life (2011) and The Falling (2014). Dreams, in particular, was a seismic gut punch of a movie, beautifully made, and thoroughly sobering. I saw Morley do Q&As for both films at the Dublin International Film Festival, and I've always found her to be articulate and insightful, so I was really looking forward to Out of Blue. Loosely based on Martin Amis's 1997 novel Night Train, the film wears its influences very much on its sleeve, primarily Nicolas Roeg (whose son, Luc Roeg serves as a producer) and David Lynch. Obviously designed as a puzzle, the story only ever seems half-formed, as if we're seeing it through gauze. Mixing tones, themes, and styles, the film tries to be many things at once, but ultimately ends up being none of them; far too simplistic to be a fully realised examination of the nature of existence, far too predictable to be a whodunnit, far too clichéd to be a noir.

    Set in New Orleans in an unspecified time period, the film begins with rising astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), an expert on black holes and a proponent of the multiverse theory, giving a lecture on how humans are "made of stardust". The following morning, her body is found in the observatory in which she worked, shot three times. Homicide detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), a recovering alcoholic who lives for the job, lands the case. As she starts investigating, she learns that Jennifer had become increasingly disturbed by the nature of her research into black holes. The daughter of Vietnam War veteran and wealthy businessman, Colonel Tom Rockwell (James Caan), and his wife, Miriam (Jacki Weaver), Jennifer had a fraught relationship with her parents, and many of her colleagues. Soon, Hoolihan has two main suspects; Jennifer's shifty and seemingly perpetually nervous boss, Professor Ian Strammi (Toby Jones) and her boyfriend/colleague, Duncan Reynolds (Jonathan Majors), who, upon finding out that Jennifer is dead, doesn't ask "how" or "when", but "why". The investigation will ultimately involve quantum mechanics, dark matter, string theory, Schrödinger's cat, and the double-slit experiment, as well as forcing Hoolihan to confront a childhood trauma she has repressed, of which the murder seems to be evoking flashbacks, and an unsolved serial killer case from the 1970s; the ".38 Killer", who always killed women that looked a lot like Jennifer.

    I haven't read the Amis novel on which the film is based, so I don't know if Morley has been successful in transplanting the tone to film, but irrespective of that, Out of Blue attempts to connect the relative mundanity of human suffering to the vast unknowable mysteries of the universe. On the surface, this is quite similar to what Terrence Malick does in The Tree of Life (2011). However, whereas Malick was essentially making the point that the birth of a galaxy is analogous with the birth of a child and that spirituality and science are not mutually exclusive, Morley sets our existence as a random and infinitesimal fragment in the impossible-to-conceive-of enormity of the universe.

    Although ostensibly set in a realistic milieu, the film has an undercurrent of Lynchian weirdness that seems to place it just ever so slightly outside normality, with Morley intermixing her larger metaphysical concerns with a mundane whodunnit. To be fair, she does give us clues that the murder investigation is not where the audience should be focused; for example, when Hoolihan first arrives at the crime scene, as a detective is briefing her, the sound fades out and the camera moves away, suggesting the details of the crime are irrelevant. However, this doesn't change the fact that the predictable outcome of the investigation has virtually nothing whatsoever to do with black holes and the multiverse, with the reveal of the killer seemingly overriding the film's more esoteric themes. Audiences will be left asking such questions as why is there so much information on Jennifer's research; is it all just an elaborate MacGuffin; is it simply that Morley was unable to find a way to dramatize it, thereby integrating the two strands of the film? The idea is obviously that in searching for the killer, Hoolihan is essentially discovering herself, played out against the backdrop of infinity, but the film never addresses why we should care, as it doesn't actually say anything interesting or significant about the connection between humanity and the strange goings-on of space-time.

    The quotidian nature of the whodunnit isn't helped by the fact that much of the acting is questionable, which seems unbelievable given the cast. Jackie Weaver appears to be in a completely different film to everyone else; James Caan is simply doing an imitation of John Huston in Chinatown (1974); Devyn A. Tyler as novice reporter Stella Honey, and Todd Mann and Brad Mann as Jennifer's creepy twin brothers never manage to escape the archetypal noir parameters of the characters they play; Yolanda T. Ross and Aaron Tveit, as Hoolihan's boss and colleague, respectively, are basically extras; even Patricia Clarkson struggles with breathing life into the material, although it's certainly unfortunate that the film is being released not so long after Karyn Kusama's infinitely superior Destroyer (2018), in which Nicole Kidman gives a similar performance. Much of the problem, however, lies with Morley's script, rather than the actors. Essentially refusing to allow the audience any kind of emotional connection with the characters, Morley instead reduces the performances to shouting and clichés. There is one excellent scene in which Hoolihan gets drunk and takes off her clothes onstage at a strip club, and it's excellent because it's the one scene where Clarkson is allowed to engage with the audience at an emotional level, evoking both shock and pity.

    Even the always-excellent Clint Mansell is off his game, with his score failing to provide much in the way of texture or nuance, and occasionally seeming to actively work against what we're seeing. On the other hand Conrad W. Hall's cinematography is excellent, flattening New Orleans in the background, and essentially creating an oppressive and generic geographical location that could be anywhere and is always just out of reach, something which works in tandem with Hoolihan's repressed memories.

    With the identity of the killer proving so banal (and just so predictable), the film essentially tasks its metaphysical component with doing all the heavy lifting, and this certainly does seem to be Morley's main concern. However, despite creating a dream-like narrative, always receding from the viewer, Morley can't cut loose of the shackles of genre, with the film's last act falling back on melodrama and unlikely coincidences. Ultimately, we're left with a film where nothing emerges fully formed. If it's really about Hoolihan's existential discovery of self, why is psychological nuance utterly absent? If it's a murder mystery, why is it so predictable and trite? If it's an esoteric rumination about eternity and the universe, why are so many of the necessary components presented in such a simplistic manner? Morley's themes and tones end up tripping over and undermining one another, as she singularly fails to integrate the metaphysical concepts with the murder plot. All in all, it's a misfire for a heretofore promising director.

    We are all made of star dust, we are everyone and everyone is us.

    For every decision we make the other decision exists in an alternate dimension.

    Critics have described this film as stunning, a masterpiece and an experience so I just had to watch.

    An astronomer is found dead in what seems to be strange circumstances and the film follows the police officers investigation into what happened.

    All sounds good so far but.......

    Very slow and I'm afraid to say very boring even when strange things start to happen to the police officer investigating, is it the dead astronomer making contact from an alternate dimension or illusions from.......

    Such a shame because the BFI (British Film Institute) have an amazing track record of making some ground breaking films but I'm afraid to say this isn't one of them.

    Rating 4 out of 10
  • Dark matter in the distant reaches of the universe is mysterious and unreachable, but so are certain truths inside of us.

    When a young professor is murdered in New Orleans a veteran homicide detective (Patricia Clarkson) tries to unravel the clues leading to the perp. The more she uncovers the more unsettled she becomes, for the case is complex and difficult to crack, and yet eerily familiar. The instincts and companions she once trusted, lead her to dead ends. Little clues to the murder such as a scarf, necklace and music box, are also tied to personal memories. She begins to sense that the answers to the case are inside her as well as around her.

    We live in the universe and it lives in us. We are all made of stardust after all. Observation changes the result.

    This is no standard police fare, it is much better than that. The female detective relies on being wise and subtle to solve cases, not brawn and force. It took me a while to shift my perspective (expecting to see action, which seems part and parcel to every Hollywood detective story), and I must see the film again to appreciate it more. Patricia Clarkson is perfect for the role and wisely cast. Supporting actors including James Caan, are no afterthoughts. The director at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival world premiere remarked that the main character is looking at other people and missing herself. This is refreshing for a police story. I was delighted by this intelligent and alternative exploration of police work, the nature of the universe and human nature.
  • Despite knowing "a" to be true for all of us, I have to say that it is "b." Can both be true? Can both be superpositioned like the state of that cat in the box? "Out of the Blue" proves this.

    Seriously, enough of Schrodinger's cat lite meets Chekhov's gun; Amis is barely a humorous fellow, but there is some humor in his novel "Night Train" on which this utterly awful film is based. Some of that humor at least may have made this tolerable -- but we don't even get that.

    Leave the box unopened, the cat resting, and skip this mess.
  • Terrible, terrible film. There really is no getting away from it. Saw this at the LFF and it was an awful mess, unbelievable dialogue, awful acting, portentous, pretentious, really really poor. I would rank it among the five worst films I've ever seen, I'm afraid. Yes it is brave and bold in choosing to place a female detective protagonist at the heart of the film, great choice of lead actress in Patricia Clarkson, it does also have a bold visual identity and there is an interesting idea in here. But it tries far to hard to be a Lynchian take on a classic detective story, when it should be focusing on the basics. Of course, Carol Morley is to be championed. She is a promising, bold British female filmmaker. And I suspect this is why she has garnered a few decent reviews for this film. But it is impossible to deny that this is a significant misstep.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    OUT OF BLUE attempts to be a dark detective story full of Deep Thoughts and Symbolism that culminates in the central Dark, Defective Detective "finding herself" and the reasons behind her Messed up Self through the Journey of Self-Discovery that her investigation of a murder devolves into. And if you found that sentence ponderous and difficult to read, then that's probably the reaction you'll have to OUT OF BLUE.

    Ultimately, this movie is poorly made and heavy-handed and overreaches itself far beyond the director's ability to craft such supposedly cerebral fare. Clumsy portrayals are not deep, they're just a big mess. There are so many superficial execution flaws in individual scenes they actually tend to obfuscate how bad the overall plot line really is.

    As an example, in literally the very first scene of the movie, we have a stargazing event at a tiny observatory with a handful of people standing around looking through small, individual telescopes while an accomplished scientist gives a talk. Bizarrely, the entire event area is literally festooned with exceptionally blinding floodlights that would render any attempt to look at stars entirely moot and rendering the entire scene ridiculous.

    This kind of almost silly sloppiness characterizes the entire picture. When you get this sort of thing at the very beginning of a movie, at least as far as I'm concerned, it sets a very negative tone at the onset that leaves you searching to see what other ridiculous mistakes are made instead of enjoying the movie.

    Watch it if you will, but I wouldn't recommend it. If you do plan to watch it, study up on Schrödinger's Cat and the notion of observational interference ahead of time so you can understand how poorly those concepts are represented within the movie.
  • drjgardner23 March 2019
    This is probably the most intellectually stimulating film I've seen in years. That doesn't make it necessarily entertaining. Truth be told, it is a little too long and they could have sculpted an even better ending. That being said, the film is marvelous. The acting is top notch. This may be the best performances ever by James Caan and Jacki Weaver and it is a tour d'force from Patricia Clarkson.

    Warning - the film requires some thought and the average viewer may find it difficult to understand, much less benefit from the film.

    At first blush it is a murder mystery, but then again, it isn't, though in fact it is indeed. It's the story of a daughter who knows too much and one who knows too little, yet somehow, the one will give birth to the other, in ways no one will expect.
  • I shall not say much, than that a film with a mysterious mystery mystefies me so much that i started to feel a bit mysterious myself. its about a merely and clearly dead of fatigue detective, that got an out of spaced homicide stuck in her lap, and through investigation and hallusinations and rem-sleep like dream visions, tries to find the facts of truth.

    but its dead slow,non-intruiging plot of a nevertheless story, with a bankers line of famous actors that delivers so infamously, and so bad that its pretty unbelievable. there are some talent in the filmo and choice of score the rest is simply like a chameleon in the dark, you cant see the difference anyway.

    its a missed target production thinks the grumpy old man, who fell asleep through vast periods of boredome with one goal for the evening, namely to see toby jones, that acts like a disaster....not recommended
  • rob_todd123 March 2019
    Don't bother despite the hype! Poor plot. Poor acting. I wish I could get the hour and had back
  • This movie seems to have split audience and critics down the middle which is why a 5 rating is probably correct. There is not much of a story here, its a basic police procedural about a female homicide cop trying to solve the riddle which is the death of a professor. Its maybe a tad overlong at an hour and 50 mins. The cast and acting are spot its just that the story takes a while to get going and there is alot of weird visuals and symbolism between the colours red and blue throughout. Is this another movie I have to read a critique of before I understand whats going on? What happened to movies you can go watch and experience the full story in the 90 mins? Anyway the tone is somewhere between a David Lynch lite without too much weirdness and one of Darren Aronofskys earlier movies minus the emotionally harrowing content. And thats maybe the issue with this movie, stuff happens with alot of nice visuals but it lacks an emotive punch. Worth watching if you like that kind of thing but it wont win over a mainstream audience, one for people who like challenging cinema with good cinematography.
  • Have never written an IMDb review before but this film seems to have attracted such negative responses among some audience and critics just wanted to record that I wasn't bored or bemused, in fact was entertained and interested throughout. And plenty to discuss afterwards. Well worth giving a chance and making your own mind up, especially if you enjoy work such as Twin Peaks.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    *** Spoilers ***

    This movie tries too hard to be something it's not. On the surface it plays like a detective murder mystery but behind the scenes it's little duck-feet are busy at work trying to subvert your expectations by weaving in concepts of metaphysics and quantum-mechanics.

    The dialogue is clunky and annoying for the most part. Most of the people interviewed seem to be lost in some sort of metaphysical headspace and never seem to be present in the movie. The acting is largely forgettable save a couple of big-hitters who felt wholly out of place; perhaps they were thinking about their next job.

    The story is where it gets interesting, but no so much as to hold any sustained interest. People in the movie seemed obsessed by Schrodinger's Cat to the point where they are uncooperative with a ongoing murder investigation. Once it becomes a flood of people all saying the same thing and acting the same way the movie loses all narrative momentum and ceases to be interesting.

    Ultimately the murderer is revealed to be the victim's father but by then it's too late because a better script-writer could have used the Schrodinger concept as a springboard rather than a point of stagnation/repetition throughout the whole movie.

    If you've manage to sit this through this pseudo-intellectual dribble there's an hilarious scene towards the end where the detective storms into an office and is immediately restrained. She then proceeds to break free and assault her attacker. This seems fine except that for most of the movie she's had trouble standing up and now has suddenly become Mel Gibson on a Friday night! It was at that point I realised that the film had truly jumped the shark, or killed the cat if you will.

    Recommendation: go watch a couple of youtube videos about Schrodinger's cat and save yourself the agony of seeing this excuse of a movie. Frankly I'd seen more interesting ideas in a Laurel & Hardy movie

    Verdict: 3/10
  • Out Of Blue: SF, Neo-Noir, Serial Killer, even science,a film of many tropes. Present day New Orleans, detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) investigates the murder of an astrophysicist, Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer). From the outset it is a complicated case, there are two main suspects, both physicists, her lover Duncan (Jonathan Majors) and the shifty Ian (Toby Jones). The killing also bears characteristics of a serial killer who has been dormant for 30 years. Jennifer's father Tom (James Caan) is a politician, war hero and business magnate and along with his dysfunctional family interferes in the investigation.

    As Mike makes inquiries she becomes immersed in world of The Multiverse, Black Holes and Quantum Mechanics, Schrodinger's Cat figures as much in developments as he own cat does in her life. The focus shifts from suspect to suspect and even a new suspect emerges. Mike also undergoes strange encounters and sensations. Is she imaging some events and even characters or is she shifting between alternative realities? The fact that Mike is a recovering addict doesn't help.

    An intriguing film which requires close attention and the Lynchian sense of strangeness and ambiguity may out many off. It likely demands a second viewing. Director and screenwriter Carol Morley has adapted the novel Night Train by Martin Amis, delivering an original addition to the SF/Neo-noir Genre. 8/10.
  • The music throughout this movie was good with the exception of one song that kept being played that had the lyrics 'I'll be seeing you'...well I'll keep it to the point...I'll never be seeing this movie again. It was lacking any substance and a complete crock of .... several people walked out.

    If you want to watch a quirky yet excellent detective type movie try Inherent Vice but Out Of Blue was just rubbish
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Minor spoiler alert. A few film critics' reviews compare this movie to the Martin Amis novel and find it wanting. The ultra negative reviews on this site call it trash, a waste of time, etc., etc. In both instances I think expectations were severely not met. I haven't read the book (but now I will) and had only the expectation that it was scI-fi, which it isn't- I think. More like science, I guess.

    I was intrigued in the complex and subtle plot line, too caught up in the evocative camera work and the atmospheric soundtrack to count the mistakes and perceived lapses in judgment that others found. Yes, I could have done without the little bits of film clips they threw in repeatedly: the marble or whatever it was rolling on the floor, the red scarf, and so on. There was no explanation that I could see and perhaps deserved to be on the cutting room floor, so to speak. And the ending was a bit too ambiguous for me, which probably was what they were aiming for, so congratulations to them on that front.

    The question of suicide vs. homicide reminds me of when I took philosophy classes in college and noticed how a few leading philosophers in the early days of science committed suicide, whether because they were addressing questions no one had thought about before, or uncovering uncomfortable answers, or some other emotional response to the deep investigation into the human condition. And I wonder, do physicists ride the same sort of emotional roller coaster as they delve closer to answers to the big questions of where the universe came from, or indeed, are there multiple universes?

    So anyway, I found Out of Blue to be entertaining, intriguing and thought provoking with a subject matter you rarely see explored in theatrical films, so I forgive its cinematic transgressions in other areas.
  • Not your standard detective movie and probably guilty of being over ambitious in its aims at time but can't fault the effort. Whilst it just misses the mark I imagine they were aiming for the overall product is still extremely interesting and enjoyable overall.