Edinburgh International Film Festival

The Anomaly (2014)

Starring: Noel Clarke, Ian Somerhalder, Brian Cox, Alexis Knapp, Luke Hemsworth

Directed by: Noel Clarke

Rating: 1 2 3

Noel Clarke as Ryan in The Anomaly

Noel Clarke has been on my radar for a while as an up and coming director of low budget British movies that punch above their weight, but this is the first of his films I've actually got round to seeing. And introduced by the director himself no less, an ambitious, ebullient chap who, cheerfully accepting comparisons between The Anomaly and a 'low rent Matrix or Inception', seems to embody that can-do, balls to the wall attitude that makes the genre industry such fun.

Like its illustrious, multi-million dollar sci-fi predecessors, The Anomaly throws us headfirst into a futuristic world with very little initial explanation. And so we see our hero Ryan (played by Clarke – he probably wrote the theme tune too) waking up in a van with a kidnapped boy, fighting off some badasses in Highgate Cemetery (as you do) then blacking out again; waking up in what looks like Cumberholmes' study, fighting off a guy in a checky suit, then blacking out; waking up in a brothel, fighting off some Russian gangsters, blacking out... you get the picture.

Gradually, however, so does Ryan, and the story he starts to piece together is both ludicrous (of course it is – it's only master-minded – literally – by everyone's bad guy of choice, Brian Cox) and oddly plausible, in a William Gibson-esque cyberpunk way. (Yet nary a whiff of PVC in sight – is that even allowed?)

Ian Somerhalder in The AnomalyBut while Clarke makes a likeable central protagonist, his acting chops don't extend much further than looking bemused and running fast, and in the (somewhat clumsy and at times downright hilariously overly choreographed) fights he packs a mean punch but he's not exactly got Tony Jaa on the ropes. Yet, just as Virginia Madsen's thirtysomething childless academic makes an unusual horror movie heroine in Candyman, so you don't see that many (any?) sci-fi movies helmed by thirtysomething cockney black guys.

Okay, so that aside, this film is plenty daft. But you know what? I thoroughly enjoy it. And you have to admire Clarke's chutzpah: can't afford to build a futuristic London set? Photoshop some extra gherkins into the skyline then run around in Docklands. Can't recreate New York? Film in Time Square – it's got flashing billboards and everything.

And for all its flaws, I certainly found The Anomaly way more compelling than The Adjustment Bureau or Source Code, which, despite far larger budgets and starrier casts, were both decidedly meh.

So three cheers for Noel Clarke and his laudable determination to take on Hollywood with means that are decidedly more Tromaville. I'll certainly be watching from now on.

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