The Shadow Effect is a new sci-fi action thriller by the Brothers Olson. It takes a unique approach to the idea of twins being able to know each other’s thoughts and memories. The film takes an intriguing approach by deviating from the standard action fare and instead focuses on the characters.
The movie stars Cam Gigandet who plays Gabriel Howarth, a man who believes himself a happily married man with a little restaurant in a small town. However, he is haunted by nightmares of assassinating important political figures. He is constantly being medicated and comforted by his wife played by Britt Shaw to no avail. He at some point is directed to a psychiatrist played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers but this interaction prompts him to investigate his problems further. What he discovers is a larger conspiracy than he is only a part of.
The story has several elements from various films like the Truman Show and Replicant. What keeps this movie fresh is the pacing. It does not dwell on themes of paranoia or have the main character ignore telltale signs of the conspiracy. He is instead very proactive and accepting of his plight which pushes the story along fairly quickly. Exposition is used very rarely and so there is some intrigue to the overall narrative. Be that as it may, there are still plenty of plot holes and it is one of those stories that has the villains setting themselves up to be thwarted.
The performances vary and Cam Gigandet does a fine job in the lead role. There are moments when he needs to break down emotionally and he does well in doing so. There are also plenty of action scenes and he fits the role which makes sense since he has been in plenty of action movies. Although, the standout of the film comes from Jonathan Rhys Meyers who just chews up the scenery. While he does not give a good performance, he is just fun to watch because he seems genuinely annoyed.
The action is also not very remarkable but there are still some fun moments. It is refreshing to see an action film with a sci-fi premise that does not delve into the absurd. The action is played to be realistic and intimate which allows for intensity. The protagonist never feels invincible and his skills are not superhuman so there is a real threat when he is fighting. There are a couple of set pieces like the highrise building scene and the car chase that are enjoyable to see play out. Unfortunately, there are just no moments that truly stand out and separate it from other action films so the whole experience feels.
The weakest component is the special effects. This issue is mainly due to the lower budget but it is still pretty glaring. There are two moments that stick out in this regard. There is a scene when the protagonist is strapped into a chair and they have to CG his eyes. It looks like a clip from Saw: the Video Game. Another scene is not as flagrant but there is a picture that is badly photoshopped. Normally, it would not be a big deal but in this case, it is presented in the center of the frame. The rest of the effects are passable except for the CG blood spurts but they always seem off.
The Shadow Effect is a passable sci-fi thriller that has taken a familiar premise and focused on characterization instead of the standard action fare. Cam Gigandet gives a solid performance and Johnathan Rhys Meyers is just fun to watch. If you can look past some of the bad special effects and gaping plot holes then you can have an enjoyable night watching an action movie that isn’t completely brainless.