You’ve seen this before, an unassuming protagonist is picked up by a mysterious company for the purposes of ‘research’, they are informed of their special abilities, given a mission, and a thriller ensues. In the case of Sensation (2021), the second film by writer/director Martin Grof, the protagonist is Andrew Cooper, a young mailman in London whose father has disappeared and whose mother is away somewhere, presumably at some sort of mental health facility. Under the auspices of a DNA test to try and figure out information on his background, he meets with Dr. Daniel Marinus, who is somehow unable to find a match for Andrew, but prompts him to sign more waivers giving the Doctor permission to share his records with other companies. It is eventually revealed that Andrew has some sort of superpower, where is able to change the world around him, to send, receive, and control information based on the senses of others.
If it sounds trite and confusing, that’s because it is, the film remains purposefully vague throughout, as Andrew later goes to a ‘training facility’ to meet with his handler named Nadia and a couple of other characters, all with similar powers. The middle section at the facility is one large information dump, chock full of exposition that only serves to provoke further confusion rather than elucidate the workings of this unnecessarily complicated plot. The heroes powers are never really explained in any meaningful way, as we move in and out of different ‘creations’ by the characters during the training sequences, constantly being told that what we are seeing isn’t reality, but a creation of it, based on the sensorial impulses (?) of our superheroes. The shadowy Dr. Marinus hovers over the whole thing, the only slice of background we get about him and the ‘company’ is a detail that is in pretty poor taste and comes off as rather insulting, as we learn his father started his research in the concentration camps during WWII. We move further down a rabbit hole of information which teases at coherence but can’t quite untangle itself to get there, and all of the sudden, we are at the ‘final stage of training’ where three bodies hit the ground unceremoniously, thrusting us back into the ‘real world’.
Ridiculous plots can often make for the most fun of sci-fi thrillers, but there is no fun here, the plot is unwilling to let itself be anything but self-serious. The final scenes have Andrew back at his home, his memory wiped, and visited by his handler Nadia who is impersonating a police officer. The vague and untrustworthy nature of what we have seen in the training sequences is wielded as a weapon, as the film seems to run out of footage, now replaying moments from the middle section as Nadia tries to convince Andrew it was him who committed murder. Eugene Simon’s performance as Andrew was never that great to begin with, and now when he has to play exasperated confusion, it becomes borderline parody, shouting his lines with wide eyes and a comically gaping mouth while seemingly hyperventilating. His performance is hardly unique amongst a plethora of confusing acting, every character either a cold and unfeeling caricature, or someone always teetering between two extremes of emotion. The film is also shot in such a bland way, so many interior scenes are under-lit in a way that is not expressive or dramatic, instead faces are lost in this dark digital muck.
What is ostensibly a thriller completely lacks thrills or intrigue, there is only one true ‘action’ scene in this film, a clumsily choreographed and intentionally blurry mess, what was supposed to be an exhibition of the protagonist’s powers becomes a frustrating aside. A typical ‘chosen one’ tale that doesn’t ever gain any momentum to garner any sort of interest, Sensation is an incredibly disappointing attempt at a sci-fi thriller.
Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars