REVIEW: ‘Infinite’ Juggles Hi-Concept Sci-Fi, Intense Action…and Mark Wahlberg

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Infinite

Infinite is a Paramount+ original film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Ian Shorr, based on the novel The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz. All his life, Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) has suffered from what he thinks are schizophrenic hallucinations. However, an encounter with a group of people called the Infinites reveals the truth: Evan’s “hallucinations” are actually memories from his past lives, as he has reincarnated into different bodies during his time as an Infinite. The Infinites are split into two groups: the Believers, who seek to protect mankind and lead it into a golden age, and the Nihilists, who are led by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Bathurst seeks to escape the cycle of reincarnation and has primed a doomsday weapon to wipe out all of mankind to do it-and only Evan holds the key to stopping him.

The debut of Infinite marks Paramount+’s ramping up of original film and TV projects for its streaming service, following Paramount Pictures’ sale of films to other streamers, including Coming 2 America and Without Remorse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Paramount CEO Bob Bakish has also stated that Paramount+ intends to add a new movie every week starting in 2022, and Infinite‘s rollout looks to be a preview of that plan. While the film has plenty of high-octane action sequences and a concept that seems tailor-made for the big screen, I don’t blame Paramount for aiming to bolster its newly rebranded service with new projects.

A large part of this is due to Fuqua’s direction. Fuqua is best known for his action and thriller work, particularly Training Day and The Equalizer films starring Denzel Washington. Those films let Fuqua mix character work with intense action, and Infinite is no different-the opening sequence features a car chase through the streets of Mexico City where a character uses a car to launch bricks at a squadron of police cruisers. (Yes, that’s a thing that happens in this film, and it’s utterly ridiculous yet awesome.) Other major set pieces include an armored car chase that demolishes a police station and a final fight inside a massive aircraft. Fuqua one-ups himself with every action sequence, finding new and inventive ways for reincarnated warriors to battle each other.

However, Fuqua is saddled with an uninspired lead in Wahlberg. Wahlberg’s McCauley is constantly sardonic about the entire concept of reincarnation, leaving no room for wonder or even empathy. At times, I couldn’t help but think that Chris Evans, who had to depart the film due to scheduling conflicts, or regular Fuqua collaborator Denzel Washington would have been a better choice for McCauley. Of course, it doesn’t help that the supporting cast surrounding Wahlberg is far more charismatic, and their characters hint at far more intriguing backstories. Sophie Cookson‘s Nora, for example, reunites with her lover in every lifetime-a reunion that has been tragically cut short by the film’s antagonist. Jason Mantzoukas plays the Artisan, an Infinite who has dedicated his various lives to equally various forms of hedonism. Even Dylan O’Brien, who plays one of McCauley’s past lives, brings plenty of charm and intrigue to his oh-so-brief screen time.

Infinite‘s villain also feels more complex and sympathetic than its hero, thanks to a winning performance from Ejiofor. Ejiofor’s Bathurst is a man driven mad by his multiple reincarnations; in a fiery monologue, he declares that “God must show me His face” and reveals that, unlike other Infinites, he gets his memories back as soon as childhood. Ejiofor is no stranger to playing zealots- a role he played to perfection in Serenity and Doctor Strange-yet with Infinite, there is a longing sense of melancholy to his actions. Granted, committing planetary-scale genocide isn’t the best way to solve his problem, but this shows why zealots are dangerous: there’s no reasoning with them, and they’d gladly be willing to die to fulfill their goals.

The film attempts to mix sci-fi and fantasy, with equally mixed results. The sci-fi elements of this world are genuinely inventive; Bathurst has a rifle loaded with bullets that steals other Infinites’ souls, and there is a machine that allows McCauley to recall his past lives. On the supernatural side, I appreciate that even though reincarnation is the driving force of this film, the Infinites can still suffer mortal wounds. Less intriguing is a mysterious superpower that McCauley can access in his past lives; it’s vaguely defined and feels tacked on.

Infinite boasts a high-concept story and extremely inventive action sequences, though Mark Wahlberg’s performance leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, fans of The Old Guard or The Fast and the Furious films will more than likely enjoy it, and it serves as a fairly solid entry into the upcoming summer movie season.

Infinite is available to stream on Paramount+.

 

Infinite
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Infinite boasts a high-concept story and extremely inventive action sequences, though Mark Wahlberg’s performance leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, fans of The Old Guard or The Fast and the Furious films will more than likely enjoy it, and it serves as a fairly solid entry into the upcoming summer movie season.