Making the Grades
Coming up with a clever way to deal with a character who can see into the future, the screenwriters of Next decided to give their hero a specific limitation: His visionary headlights only illuminate about two minutes of the road in front of him. Yet if you think as quickly as Cris Johnson (Nicholas Cage), the man blessed with this unusual ability, then 120 seconds of foresight is long enough to get you out of many tight spots -- and this script has oodles of such opportunities.
Cris works as a magician at a seedy Las Vegas club where he tries to hide his talent by passing it off as a cheap trick -- like when he calls a woman up on stage (who happens to be Cage's real-life wife, Alice Kim) and predicts her necklace will fall off in a few seconds. The stint doesn't pay very well, so Cris uses his visionary skills at the casinos to earn a little extra money.
Not surprisingly, his ability to hedge bets at the blackjack tables draws the attention of casino security and FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore). The latter is desperate to stop a terrorist group from detonating a nuke in Los Angeles. Believing he is capable of predicting where the bomb will be placed before the blast, she is hot on his heels. However, Cris has been hounded for his prophetic abilities since he was a child and fears cooperation will only lead to further requests and interrogation.
Besides, the visionary has more important things on his mind than the incineration of L.A. Having had a premonition about a beautiful young woman he believes will be the love of his life, Cris starts each day nursing a martini at the diner where he is convinced she will appear. Thankfully, the mysterious Liz (Jessica Biel) shows up just in time. Managing to talk her into driving him up into the Arizona hills, Cris leaves the feds and the threat of a nuclear holocaust behind. But even a night in a faraway motel with a woman he's known for less than a day won't keep him secluded from the authorities and terrorists.
Fortunately, from a family viewing perspective, the impending crisis keeps time for sexual interludes short. The same can't be said for the violence, which is front and center in this action thriller. Cris's paranormal abilities allow him to dodge bullets Matrix-style, but plenty of other secondary characters aren't as invincible. Brutal shootings to the head, knees and torsos take down many "insignificant" players, as does an explosive vest, which is detonated while being worn by a kidnapped person. Parents will also find an assortment of moderate profanities and a partial and mouthed use of a sexual expletive.
Next provides an interesting twist to a popular movie theme and the script offers Cage's character an opportunity to demonstrate he has learned and progressed from his experience. The actor's tongue-in-cheek sense of humor also mixes well with his dogged determination, making this hero particularly engaging. Still, the violent content in this movie will have parents wanting to carefully determine if viewing this film is in their teens' future.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Next.
Would you want to possess Cris’s ability to see into the future? How might things change if you were continually able to hone your decisions based on the next couple of minutes? How might it make your life more difficult?
As a screenwriter, what is the risk of having an invincible character? How does this script attempt to maintain our interest, even though Cris appears to be able withstand any kind of attack?