In the past decade, Owen Wilson has been more prominent as a sofa salesman than he has as a movie star. Since his early 2010s peak as a mild-mannered comedy lead, he’s popped up in underwhelming sequels (Zoolander 2, Cars 3), and had a supporting role in wholesome hit 2017’s Wonder, but nothing that sticks in the memory.
Directed by Mike Cahill (I Origins), Bliss looks to be his first lead role since 2015’s action-thriller No Escape. Finding its way onto Amazon’s Prime service following a delayed release, Wilson plays Greg, a dissatisfied office worker recently divorced from his wife and keeps sketching a dream home he has never visited but can see clearly.
Moments after a traumatic firing, he runs into Isabel (Salma Hayek), who reveals to him that this life is in fact a simulation, in which he is one of the few ‘real’ people. Taking a pill to see the world for what it is, Greg begins to see the world a new way. However, his realities begin to compete for his mind.
The second simulation themed movie of the week (along with documentary A Glitch In The Matrix), Cahill subverts expectations by having the lines become a little bit blurry. On one side is Isobel, dragging Greg from revelation to revelation, and on the other is Greg’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper), desperately trying to drag him back to the world he is accustomed to.
It’s not certain who is telling the truth, and while the plot wanders around it does discover some fun avenues. At the top of that list are the moments where Greg discovers that as reality becomes meaningless, so do consequences. The question of what you might do if nothing mattered and people were simply computer programmes is taken to a dark extreme.
Dancing through the chaos is Hayek, revelling in the chance to get her hands dirty as Wilson’s metaphysical Sherpa. Swinging from mysterious to violent at the drop of a hat, she keeps the plot moving along even when the answers to Greg’s questions begin to seem obvious. As for Wilson himself, he’s a solid lead even without his trademark “wooooow” catchphrase. He’s comfortable in a darker setting, adjusting that affable everyman persona to show someone who is at a vulnerable point in his life.
But Bliss’ novelty wears off about halfway through, as the film simply becomes a race toward a twist that we all saw coming. Still, at a time where many of us would welcome the news that this reality was simply a simulation, it offers some gritty escapism.
Bliss is available on Amazon Prime Video from 5th February.