I’m ready to see Shane Carruth’s The Modern Ocean right now. The mind-bending writer/director has added Keanu Reeves, Anne Hathaway, and Daniel Radcliffe to his next project, the biggest money project of his career to this point. And it can’t get here quick enough.
Carruth’s gear-grinding time-travel drama Primer is required viewing almost annually, if for no other reason than to try and piece it all together. Primer works like a complex dream, one that comes in vividly during viewing and immediately after, but the mechanics of the plot and the way things work out begin to fade the more you try and work them out. Try watching it and explaining the plot to someone an hour later, it’s impossible, and that’s what makes the picture so fascinating.
His follow up film (nine years later), Upstream Color, struck a nerve with me. I watched it over and over to the point of exhaustion, working through the imagery and the metaphors, becoming a student of every scene and shot and narrative thread. Carruth laid out the plot of Upstream Color, a mixture of thriller and romance and science fiction, though I wish he would have left it ambiguous. That isn’t to say it’s entirely ambiguous – there is a clear thread pushing through the center of the story – but the unexplained elements surrounding the core are hypnotizing at times.
And now comes The Modern Ocean:
The competition for valuable shipping routes, the search for the hidden cache of priceless material and the powerful need for vengeance will converge in a spectacular battle on the rolling decks of behemoth cargo ships. This epic tale, fraught with danger and intrigue, takes us from the ancient trading houses of Algeria to the darkest depths of the ocean floor. Enormously inventive, but grounded in arcane reality, THE MODERN OCEAN will draw audiences in to a secretive world filled with mysterious technologies and bitter rivalries.
Carruth has been working on the film for some time now, and it appears to be coming together with a powerful ensemble. Along with Reeves, Hathaway, and Radcliffe is Jeff Goldblum, Chloë Grace Moretz, Tom Holland, Asa Butterfield, and Abraham Attah from Beast of No Nation. This is far and away the biggest star power Carruth has had at his disposal, but thankfully his main intention here is to keep his labyrinthine storytelling style in tact. Carruth said as much to The Playlist:
I’m constantly interested in the politics, interactions between different personalities, different characters. That’s what this boils down to: it erupts into a big action film, essentially, but the reasons why it does are the reasons the story exists…That characters are unable to get aligned is because they’re all pointed in different directions, they all have slightly different motives. And that’s not always known to the group.
This obtuse approach to his work is what makes it so fascinating, and the themes he touches on in this interview echo in both Primer and Upstream Color. This is easily my most anticipated film of whatever year it comes out. Let’s hope it’s next year, and not 2017.