It’s been a long time since Greg’s ( Owen Wilson ) life was going well . So his marriage failed. He doesn’t enjoy his work, which is why he spends most of his time making drawings of another life that he keeps dreaming of. This lack of productivity is of course not hidden from the others, which is why he is eventually fired. When it comes to a scuffle with his boss, Greg accidentally kills him. In a panic, he hides the body and first goes to a bar across from his office building. There he meets Isabel ( Salma Hayek ), who tells him that everything he experiences is only part of a simulation that she can manipulate and that they are two of the few real people in it …
Mike Cahill hasn’t been that productive as a filmmaker so far. His filmography has so far only comprised two feature films. For this he has earned a certain reputation with both of them. Even if neither Another Earth (2011) nor I Origins (2014) were commercially successful, and the reactions of critics outside of the indie circles were rather mixed, the films were intrinsic enough to be remembered. The specialty of the director and screenwriter is to combine a science fiction scenario with emotional aspects and a basic philosophical orientation, but with a lot of restraint. You shouldn’t expect the big drama from him.
It is no different with the Amazon Prime Video production Bliss , his long overdue third film. Surprisingly, things get going when the argument with the boss ends fatally. And later on there will always be more action-packed scenes when the duo makes their way through the world together. Sure: Anyone who can influence this, as Isabel shows and makes it possible with the help of small pills, makes enemies. There are elements of conspiracy thrillers in there, coupled with a larger amount of mystery. But they are rather sparse, and they also look as if Cahill only built them in because the story itself does not go on.
In fact, it’s a bit thin. Again, the filmmaker is more concerned with his questions and the atmosphere; the plot quickly becomes a minor matter. The same applies to the emotional aspect. Of course, it’s also about the rapprochement between the two characters and their feelings for one another. But this is not the love story when the Bliss was announced in advance. Much rather revolves around the ever-popular contrast between imagination and reality and the difficulty of separating the two. Is this really all a simulation as Isabel claims? Or are these just two weirdos who want to make up everything because they can’t cope with reality?
Unlike the game with perception, which is popular in the thriller and horror area, Bliss does this in the everyday and personal environment. Greg, whose life is slipping away more and more, finds through the pills and the possibility of manipulation again a way to gain control and to determine himself. The question of the “correct” reality is therefore inextricably linked with an escape from reality. The film finds very nice pictures for it. Cahill and the German cameraman Markus Förderer succeed ( Independence Day: Wiederkehr), to visually clearly separate the different realities from one another without deciding which one is correct. After all, both have something unreal about them, which is why the audience is allowed to speculate longer.
But despite the visual strengths, a well performing duo and an interesting topic in and of itself, the result is not really inspiring. The biggest problem is that Cahill didn’t quite know how to make a real story out of the elements. After a curious introduction, the action gets too far. At a little over an hour and a half, Bliss is not particularly long, but ultimately too long to be continuously captivating. From the middle on it always sags. Overall, the science fiction drama is already worth seeing and despite the director’s well-known scam, it is still independent enough not to get lost in the mass of new releases.