Rated R, 104 minutes
On Amazon Prime
The likable but baffling new sci-fi thriller "Bliss" from director and writer Mike Cahill ("Another Earth") is an ambitious though uneven mind-bending effort. It's filled with enough intriguing ideas to stay engaged but uneven enough to leave you frustrated too.
An unfulfilled, troubled man named Greg (Owen Wilson) who, after recently being divorced and then fired from his job, meets the mysterious Isabel (Salma Hayek), a woman living on the streets and convinced that the polluted, broken world around them is a computer simulation. Doubtful at first, Greg eventually discovers there may be some truth to Isabel's wild conspiracy.
The heady "Bliss" isn't a terrible film by any means, likely more confusing than anything. The charming Wilson-Hayek chemistry keeps things moving in a somewhat cluttered story that feels taken from a chapter of David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" with heavy influences from Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan. It's also nothing new for Cahill, whose previous "Another Earth" and "I Origins" traversed similar sci-fi landscapes and themes of life and death, of reality, simulation and reincarnation.
Hayek is especially good as the beguiling Isabel, whose intentions are later to be revealed as more scientific, though you still feels she cares for Greg. Wilson, better known for comedies and clearly playing against type, is the wild card here, but he's actually a solid dramatic actor, with Cahill nicely using his affability in an underwritten part; I do wish Cahill would've explored his character's issues more.
"Bliss" starts out well and tends to go in too many directions in the last act, and Cahill's script tends to unearth a lot of ideas but leaving too much unexplained. He throws many intriguing concepts- holograms, special powers (which are kinda cool) and transplanting to various locations - though never really delves too deeply into them, and a little unsure of the romance subplot with Wilson and Hayek.
I liked "Bliss," not because I understood all of it, but because of the warm Hayek and Wilson (and yes, that's Bill Nye, "The Science Guy," in a small role), and they make it worth watching, even if it might go over your head a bit.