A corporation claims to be able to tell precise details of a person’s future by examining the person’s DNA. It is a familiar theme in fiction, movies, and television that knowing too much about the future can exact a heavy price. Life Tracker adds a science fantasy twist. What the film lacks in logic and scientific plausibility it makes up for in the philosophical questions it raises. Phoenix filmmaker Joe McClean writes and directs a thoughtful and generally intelligent science fantasy film on a very low budget.
Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.
Spoiler Warning: Important plot developments come early in ‘Life Tracker’. I will have to reveal some story plot points if I am to discuss the premise of the film.
Richard ‘Rocko’ Hutchensen of Life Tracker Limited, a bio-tech company from Texas, announces one day that the company has a process to analyse DNA and other biological processes and can from it predict in some detail the future of the person donating DNA. This service is to be offered for a price to the general public. But there may be more of a price than most people realize.
[Sorry, I would like to make a comment here. This is an idea that has been around for a long time and was the basis of Andrew Niccol’s film ‘GATTACA’. In fact, the idea has been thoroughly discredited. At least, currently the tide of scientific opinion is that DNA is less effective at predicting future health than is a study of the subject’s exercise patterns, home life, and unhealthy habits. In this film, the power of the predictions is almost magical. Perhaps the film is better thought of as a fantasy film in which there is a magical way of seeing people’s future.]
Dillon Smith (played by Barry Finnegan) is an amateur documentary filmmaker or he would be if he could ever finish one of his films. On the day of the Life Tracker announcement, Dillon thinks there is a film subject here and takes his camera onto the street to interview people about what they think of Life Tracker’s claims. Dillon discusses the issues involved with his friends, Scott Orenhauser (Matt Dallas) and Scott’s attractive girlfriend Bell Osbourn (Rebbeca Marshall).
Soon, it is discovered that not all the information Life Tracker finds is being released to its subjects. Some information, by law, is being kept from the test subjects themselves. The United States Government has mandated that some of the data must be kept secret. This opens public debate. Is it good or bad to know your future? Does the government have a right to hide from a citizen information about him? Is there information it is dangerous even to know about yourself?
When the public protests, the secret information is released to the subjects. Almost immediately, we see why it could have been better for everyone if the information was not revealed. Personal relationships are heavily hit by too much knowledge.
[Sorry, let me interrupt again. The idea that a DNA test would show precise details of a person’s future is absurd. DNA could not possibly predict that a piano would fall on you tomorrow, for example. Identical twins have identical DNA but do not have identical futures. ‘Life Tracker’ is really in the same category as stories about all-knowing oracles or fortune-tellers. That does not make it a bad story, but it makes it more of a fantasy.]
The story develops slowly focusing the three main characters and specifically on Dillon’s personality flaws. The small screen video work adds a feel of cheapness and at the same time tension, both of which work for the tone of the film.
This is Joe McClean’s first feature film, though he has made shorts before. This film is shot very cheaply on video about people shooting on video and it is an example of the sort of small film that can be made for a tiny fraction of what the big studios spend on a film. The budget of this film is so much less than that of a film like ‘The Avengers’ and there is a lot more intelligence on the scripting.
This is a flight of fancy, in spite of the science trappings, but after a slow start it is surprisingly effective. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2013