Wander  Review – The paranoia of Conspiracy Theories
The fact that ‘Wander‘ occasionally takes its action too seriously makes me want to not give it another go. However, things like a podcast on conspiracy theories hosted from a place that’s literally titled ‘Middle of Nowhere’ made me wanna reconsider. But then again, it’s a film that just uses mental illness and immigration as plot triggers so it leans towards the incomprehensible urge that needs to be judged on moral ground. This is sad for a viewer like me because I enjoy a sleek, pulpy thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Wander does and it does it with such exemplary incoherence that a critical scan is indeed needed.
We open with a killing that is slated as an accident. A woman blows up while trying to run away from her damaged car. Her chest explodes – as if a deeply implanted time bomb in her chest suddenly exploded. She is from Wander – a cue to big bold border signal that introduces us to the film and the town it is set in.
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It’s a ghost town where everything feels like a trainwreck. Difficult, unprecedented things are going on in Wander and only a deeply disturbed ex-cop-cum-podcast-host-cum-private-investigator who resides somewhere in ‘Middle of Nowhere’ can find answers to. The only problem is – he is a grief-stricken, lonely man who has shut himself off from the world we reside in. This pill-popping, about to explode internally man is up for the quest because it’s personal.
Now, this is the exact kind of B-movie premise that I’m game for. I know that things will get interesting at some point in time and the twists will surely encapsulate me as I gasp in my guilty-pleasure viewing. Sadly, Wander is too childishly written to really hit those notes. Firstly, the plot is all over the place with little to no semblance to the actual thematical elements it hinges to pursue. Secondly, the characters – especially the one at its center is so uncertain and unpredictable; both in amounts of how surmountable he believes his life is and how absolutely ridiculous his motifs are laid out, that you become just a spectacular to the downward spiral the film leads on.
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There’s a batman-voiced narration that Aaron Eckhart’s Arthur Bretnik is into is so out of character and out of place that it screams crippling feelings inside the viewer. More so, there are numerous attempts made by director April Mullen to deliberately implant plot holes, so as to ring your back with twists only to come off as rigged and downright ill-conceived. Tim Doiron’s half-baked writing is to be blamed partly because it wastes so much time confusing you with instantly introduced non-linear storytelling, that you end up feeling frustrated rather than being thrilled.
Wander is limited to a shallow depth in its characters as the thematic relevance is thrown off the window in order to introduce an element of surprise. The shabby handheld camera work and muted, brooding performance from even veterans like Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t help either. I think I would have been happier if the paranoia was used as a thrilling element rather than a delusional one.