Antoine Fuqua’s ‘Infinite’ (2021) opens with a dry narration of the movie’s logline from a dispassionate Mark Wahlberg, exclaiming “There are among us a people gifted with perfect memory of all their past lives. They call themselves Infinites.” Likely dubbed in post-production and resulting from a studio executive’s fear of the audience’s inevitable confusion during the strangely edited car chase that would open the film, all of the movie’s resulting missteps are exemplified in this opening line of dialogue.
At once, the film asks both far too much of its audience and far too little. ‘Infinite’ doesn’t trust the viewer to understand its cardboard-thin characters nor the disorganized narrative they take part in, but instead of going back to the drawing board to rethink and rebuild its shaky foundation, ‘Infinite’ chooses to fill the innumerable cracks in the story with a haphazard, watered-down spoon-feeding that only serves to further alienate those watching.
The latest film from the director of ‘Training Day’ (2001) starring Denzel Washington and ‘Southpaw’ (2015) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Infinite’ features a number of familiar faces variously committed to the story. The film centers on ‘Boogie Nights’ (1997) and ‘The Departed’ (2006) star Mark Wahlberg as the aloof Evan McCauley, a man who has believed himself to be a schizophrenic his whole life due to strange visions and half-remembered voices echoing endlessly throughout his head. He soon discovers that he is a member of a unique group of people called Infinites who have been perpetually reincarnated since the dawn of man.
The group has been fractured into the Believers and the Nihilists, or in layman’s terms; the good guys and the bad guys, locked in a war with the potential to end all of mankind. Amongst the Believers are ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ (2014) alum Sophie Cookson and Wahlberg’s mythical past-self portrayed sparingly by ‘Love and Monsters’ (2020) star Dylan O’Brien. They are pitted against the fearsome Bathurst, played by ‘12 Years a Slave’ breakout Chiwetel Ejiofor, who seeks to end the cycle of reincarnation for good by wiping all of humanity from the face of the Earth.
An Interesting Premise Muddled By Fractured Mythology
While admittedly silly, there is undoubtedly the potential for originality in the formal story beats of ‘Infinite’. A group of highly trained warriors locked in combat across centuries and present for the various turning points in recorded history makes for an admittedly exciting hook. Layer on top of that premise the notion that the civil war that divides the dueling factions boils down to a thought-provoking debate over whether immortality is truly a blessing or a curse, and the cinematic potential is exceedingly evident.
But this intriguing jumping-off point is often convoluted by the film’s apparent lack of commitment to serving this narrative and seeing it through to its natural conclusion. For a film hinging on the concepts of time and history, the audience only gets to experience a few days in the world of the characters, and the farthest back they get to see is a twilight Mexico City in the 1970s during Dylan O’Brien’s initial action set piece. The grandiosity of the film’s ideas starkly contrasts with the comparatively limited scope the film eventually settles for.
Instead of allowing its story to stand on its own two feet, it becomes increasingly evident as the film progresses that ‘Infinite’ heavily borrows from previous works as it limps to the proverbial finish line. Attempting to tow the line between the sophisticated sincerity of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ (2010) and the mindless mayhem of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise proves too hard a task for Fuqua, resulting in a peculiar tone that fails to accurately mimic or resemble either.
Occasionally Thrilling Action Attempts to Mask A Disjointed Script
‘Infinite’ is not completely without its merits, however, as genuinely engaging action set-pieces and impressive choreography are sprinkled throughout. Given that the members of the Infinite have had many centuries to hone their skills and practice all forms of combat, most are extremely adept warriors, making for a much-needed injection of energy into the film that just barely keeps it afloat. The opening of ‘Infinite’ features some impressive practical effects and stunt work that are largely unseen in the more CGI-heavy fare of the latter half of the film and provide O’Brien the room to flex his action-star muscles accumulated throughout ‘The Maze Runner’ trilogy.
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The climactic final action set-piece is another stand-out moment, completely allowing itself to give in to the vibrantly over-the-top unabashed absurdity the rest of the film sorely missed. This ultimate set-piece is the closest the movie comes to carving itself out as a memorably amusing ride, utilizing impressive camera placement and surprisingly believable effects to craft a pay-off far surpassing its set-up.
While the explosive action may rescue the occasional scene, the film is ultimately torpedoed by its confusingly crafted script. The dialogue ranges from awkward to unbelievable, the actors on screen visibly aware the lines they are reading don’t make very much sense. Many of the aforementioned failings of ‘Infinite’ and its story can be traced back to the original words on the page, often crushing any goodwill that the fast-moving action or recognizably likable actors are able to create.
Dumped onto Paramount+ With Little More Than a Whisper
‘Infinite’ was initially planned for a theatrical release beginning on August 7th of 2020, but after a series of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-limited window of studio releases, the film was set to officially premiere September 24, 2021. Without warning, the film was quietly pulled from its planned theatrical run and listlessly shelved on the infant streaming service Paramount+. The first trailer for the film debuted only twelve days before it hit streaming, leaving no time for any substantial anticipation or fan support to develop.
While it’s impossible to know exactly why this decision was made, the studio might have just wanted to avoid paying too much time or attention to a film that they deemed a begrudged misfire. While many critics have angrily labeled ‘Infinite’ one of the worst films in recent years and devoid of any redeemable qualities, it is more deserving of a melancholy admittance of what could have been had different hands sculpted the film. While there are faint glimmers of hope parsed throughout its runtime, the ultimate enjoyment to be had within ‘Infinite’ is sadly quite finite.
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Cookson, Dylan O’Brien, Toby Jones, Jason Mantzoukas
Cinematographer: Mario Fiore | Editor: Conrad Buff
Director: Antoine Fuqua | Writer: Ian Shorr, D. Eric Maikranz | Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian, Mark Huffam, John Zaozirny, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson
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Andrew Valianti is a writer and an aspiring producer-director, and all-around film lover. While writing both features and reviews for the Hollywood Insider, Andrew has focused on the intersection of cinema and politics as they relate to empowering diverse stories and viewpoints. Through both study and practice, Andrew has seen first hand the many ways in which film and media can have a positive and meaningful impact on everyday lives. His personal views align with the Hollywood Insider, as he views journalism as a means to empower and mobilize positive change rather than spread gossip or negativity. He believes that art ignites action and has sought to pursue stories that further this goal.