DVD Review: MINDSCAPE Is Good – But It Could Have Been So Much Better

Mindscape is a well composed Spanish/American production that works as a piece of entertainment, however you can’t help but feel that director Jorge Dorado and writer Guy Holmes felt there was much more weight to things than what ultimately ended up on screen.

Mark Strong plays John Washington, a widowed ‘mind detective’ who is able to connect with people’s memories, unlocking things they have forgotten or maybe didn’t want to know. He’s tasked by his boss and friend (Brian Cox) to help Anna (Taissa Farmiga), a troubled sixteen year old who is refusing to eat. Washington begins working Anna’s case, but there may be much more to her mind than even he can determine.

Mindscape takes a lot of elements from other (superior) films and blends them together. Dorado’s thriller has touches of The Sixth Sense and Vanilla Sky along with hints of Inception and Minority Report, but he’s unable to offer-up anything that feels other than a rote mystery. The twists and turns aren’t particularly revelatory, but that’s not to say the film isn’t enjoyable. Mark Strong plays against type, playing the strong (no pun intended) and silent Washington, a detective who is haunted by his past. He brings a natural quality to the role and heightens what could have been a very tired genre stereotype.

Dorado’s film impresses on a visual level, with Oscar Faura’s cinematography offering a strong sense of mood. It goes for dark autumnal colours that is quite reminiscent of Tak Fujimoto’s work on The Sixth Sense and the Silence of the Lambs. Faura’s work gives Dorado’s work an added layer on a visual level and elevates it beyond its pulp leanings.

Mindscape is the first production from Juame Collet-Sera’s Ombra Films, a company that intends to make a selection of English language genre films to nurture Spanish filmmaking talent. That’s a noble endeavour, but this first film suffers from the same issues that have hindered Collet-Sera’s two Hollywood efforts, Unknown and Non-Stop. Like those films, Mindscape tries to create a complex prestige act that offers the audience one thing, but in reality it’s something else. However, the pay-off never feels organic to the integrity of the piece as a whole.

While it’s easy to criticise Mindscape for it’s generic genre trappings, those involved can’t be faulted for trying. It’s an entertaining thriller with high production values and good performances. There are a lot of great things going on, but it’s frustrating to know that this could have been much better than the final product.