Judge David Johnson can read your mind. You find him attractive don't you? Don't you?
He knows everything but the truth.
Nick Stahl (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) stars in this trippy sci-fi thriller as a telepath caught in the middle of The Big Conspiracy seeking to unravel The Startling Truth. You've been warned, Old White Man Cabal.
Facts of the Case
Stahl is Joshua Lazarus—the perfect name for a main character in a low-budget science fiction film—a young man blessed (or cursed) with telepathy. By focusing his cognitive superpower, he can access a person's mind, read their thoughts, and even compel them to do small actions. His kind, called "Scopers," have been corralled and trained by the NSA to execute missions for national security. And while all this mind-reading stuff sounds awesome, there's a major downside: by the age of 29, scopers go insane and eventually commit government-assisted suicide. Joshua just celebrated his 28th birthday.
I'm always up for an unforeseen little sci-fi treat, and parts of Speed of Thought measure up. Nick Stahl is dependably solid as the hero, even though he's occupying the thankless role of fumbling around in the dark looking to solve a mystery. Joshua is a character we've seen before, the hapless puppet who's been doing his job and doing it well until everything turns upside down and THE RULES CHANGE. In lesser hands, it could have been just a bit tedious, but Stahl brings the gravitas and drives the film with gusto.
A solid supporting cast surrounds him, from Fringe's Blair Brown as (what else) a shadowy authority figure, and omnipresent character actor Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride) as Joshua's handler, to Taryn Manning (Hustle and Flow) as a fellow telepath and seeker of justice, and the lovely Mia Maestro (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) as the mysterious newcomer who sets Joshua on his quest.
What ultimately trips up this well-stocked enterprise is the story and its lethargic pacing which brings everyone scuffling to a lukewarm conclusion. The idea of the government using superpowered citizens for national security isn't new, so you'd hope to see some innovation in the concept. Nope, the NSA has Joshua out doing trivial stuff, which really takes the wind out of telepathy's coolness. Why not create an intriguing set-piece where Joshua is dropped somewhere to read minds and discover a terrorist? Instead, we see him at a casino cheating at cards. Blah.
When the curtain is pulled back and Joshua finds himself inevitably hunted by the government agency he works for, I was hoping for a bump in pacing. To that point, the focus was on his building a relationship with the new scoper girl and confronting his own insecurities. That's fine and all, but when the shift to "pursuit mode" kicks in, some thrills would have been appreciated. Sadly, they never materialize. Instead, our heroes run a bit and try to telepathically nudge folks here and there. Plus, Eric Palladino shows up for about twelve seconds as a dopey gate attendant who Joshua has to extract a password from (this is played out as one of the film's signature suspense pieces). Talk about missed opportunities! This guy can read minds and influence people to do his bidding, but we get very little action-oriented intrigue. I'm not asking for Michael Bay levels of mayhem; just don't let your nifty sci-fi hook go to waste.
The final reveal expands the scope of the telepathy (hat-tipping to Inception along the way), as Joshua confronts the Big Bad pulling the strings. There are flashes of potential in these scenes, but the execution is muddled and the rules aren't explained. The good guys are supposedly in mortal danger and I'm not sure why. The guiding theme could have been something more than a passing curiosity. Another missed opportunity.
Maya's disc is simple but adequate: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, 2.0 stereo, bloopers, deleted scenes, and some behind-the-scenes footage.
The cast is great and some story elements work, but there's just not enough new and exciting to separate Speed of Thought from the pack.
(((Sending my verdict out telepathically)))
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Maya Entertainment
• Deleted Scenes
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