Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Nick Bostrom, Erik Davis, Paul Gude, Alex Levine
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Rodney Ascher
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 108
Date: 02/05/2021
IMDB

A Glitch in the Matrix (2021)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Neo Realism

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The haphazard documentary A Glitch in the Matrix is centered around a fascinating lecture by author Philip K. Dick, and leads up to a terrifying ending, but it unfortunately consists mostly pop culture references and unconvincing arguments.

Filmmaker Rodney Ascher (Room 237) explores the so-called "Simulation Theory," which argues that our entire reality is not actually real, and is possibly more like a video game, or like the movie The Matrix. It begins with Dick's 1977 lecture. He began thinking about the idea after an experience with anesthetic, and began incorporating it into his novels.

Dick's speech is worth hearing, because he's clearly still trying to explore things, but the modern-day interviewees in A Glitch in the Matrix are far more certain. Professor Nick Bostrom, who published a famous 2003 essay, Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?, has a thoughtful and complex hypothesis, but the movie spends barely any time on it, and it requires at least a bit of explanation.

The main interviewees (who appear as digital avatars) seem like nice enough people, and they all seem to be movie and video game fans, and, interestingly, most have some kind of faith-based background. They tell stories about how they began to detect patterns and coincidences that convinced them of an artificial reality. But Ascher disguising them as futuristic animals seems like something of a joke or a tease. The documentary's constant use of movie and video game clips also suggests that it's in slightly less than a serious mood. But then it comes to its final stretch, and it's not funny anymore.

This is saved for the story of Joshua Cooke, who was obsessed with The Matrix, believed he was living in an artificial reality, and subsequently killed his parents. He confesses that he was surprised when they did not die like video game characters. Ultimately, A Glitch in the Matrix not only fails to convince us of its argument, but it doesn't really seem to know what it wants to say at all.

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