Press notes are not always the most beneficial of professional tools. After only 10 minutes of Numb, I was tempted to look up the synopsis just to clarify exactly what it was about or where it was headed. After 20, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. From there, mood neutralizes the curiosity, maintaining the interest but substitutiong philosophical quandaries in place of big plot twists. The world of old-school sci-fi is full of stores like this. Nowadays, CGI is needed to create an actual universe instead of doing it with words and ideas. In the end, I had hoped that Numb would have a little more to offer, but its certainly an interesting ride to the destination.The world of Numb exists in its prozac nation. Humantiy has been all but substituted by a drug known as “the drip.” People walk around like hospital patients, doped into a peaceful submission as a mysterious “disease” put them in need for the plastic bags. Claire (Jennifer West Savitch) is on the hunt through this landscape for a man she claims to be her lover; even though flashvacks reval him old enough to be her father. He may have been experimenting with a new drug, which when injected will flush the drip right out of the system. When she offers a sample to a homeless man, he wonders what’s the point since he’ll still be sick. Better to live in tranquility than in pain.
One man who may be able to help is Miles (Dominik Overstreet), described as a “local celebrity” probably since he’s the only one to display a general sense of living. He’s actually one of the chosen few who have been fixed so they don’t use the drug; forced against their will with one virus to prevent themselves from the trap of having to choose the “disease” of addiction. He gets his kicks “the old-fashioned way”, adrenalized by exercise and sex, but still feels the urge to put a gun to his head once the pleasure is over.
Numb is very much in the style of films like THX-1138. 1984 and probably another handful of numbered science-fiction prose. Filmed in great-looking black-and-white, the story’s past may exist in color, but in a grainy, washed-out palette that looks bleaker than what the present society is drowning in. The story jumps back-and-forth through time, not-so-much to create a solvable puzzle but to create the brand of disconnection that its inhabitants are likely feeling. These automatons may be at peace but lack the very emotions that makes one understand and appreciate their own state of mind.
Director Michael Ferris Gibson does a solid job of involving the audience in this desolate plight; for once we’re allowed to think more than the characters. Dominik Overstreet brings a charismatic presence to the land of blank stares and “yes” men and Jennifer Savitch has an ethereal beauty that hovers like a lost angel through the land of the lost.As a think-piece, Numb works quite well as it challenges us to decipher its many ideas of what it means to be alive. A creepy high society lives up to its very classification, walls are papered in binary code and statements like “they wanted to live even if it killed them” wrap themselves tight around our brain. Numb’s greatest strength also becomes its weakness as we hope for a little more out of its climax than a revelation we can easily guess and a finality that ending life may not exactly be about saving it. Philosophy can certainly be fascinating on its own and provide a fresh outlook on life, but once you get to the end of the class you wonder if its really taken you anywhere. On the other hand, wondering about anything is probably still something.