Thursday, February 9, 2017

iBoy: Science Fiction in the Neighborhood

I saw iBoy last night, newly arrived on Netflix, just as the snow started falling a little north of New York City.  Yeah, it was late, but the world was quiet and beautiful, and I was doing some writing. And the movie was pretty good, too.

On the surface, iBoy is another one of many movies about a teen acquiring superpowers due to some weird accident.  Or, from another angle, the story of someone who acquires super-hacking mental powers.  But there is something about the scale of iBoy, the perspective on life in London it conveys, that makes the movie appealing, even memorable.

The set-up barely makes the level of scientific plausibility - Tom gets shot in the head while he's running and talking on his smartphone - and he survives with some smart bits of the phone embedded in his brain.   This gives him the power to hack into any phone at will, and a little more than that when needed, with no equipment at hand other than his brain.

The setting is an "estate" - what we would call a project or a neighborhood in the U.S. - where Tom interacts with bullies, a friend (more or less), a girl he really likes, his grandmother (with whom he lives) and ultimately a resourceful and intelligent crime boss.   These ingredients don't sound like much, but put together they make an at times compelling story, lifted throughout by strong acting.

Rory Kinnear (James Bond movies) as the crime boss, Jordan Bolger (Peaky Blinders) as the friend, and Maisie Williams (playing a character equivalent in many ways to her Arya in Game of Thrones) were especially fine.   Bill Milner offers just the right mix of vulnerability and power as Tom.  And it was good to see Miranda Richardson looking good as grandma.

iBoy stops just short of Tom's powers expanding to the point where he can rule the world, or destroy buildings or stadia with a single revved-up thought.  And that's all to the good.  Keep it in the neighborhood and you can't go wrong.

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