A sci-fi anthology film for the modern age has just arrived and no, it is not a spinoff of Netflix’s Black Mirror. Warning mashes together several threads into a confused and convoluted film whose disparate parts fail to provide even passable entertainment. The only connections between the stories are the random thunderstorms supposedly ravaging the earth and the through line of troubling technology. Don’t let the exceptionally well-rounded cast fool you: Warning is an unfortunate collection that completely misses the mark.
The primary thread we keep returning to over and over again is that of Thomas Jane’s David the astronaut. Not a fan of spacewalks and with only an android vocal companion to guide him, David spends the movie having a nervous breakdown in space while his oxygen depletes. Checking back in sporadically as he crawls closer to death serves little purpose beyond highlighting the bleak reality the audience is sure to feel is imminent. The rest of the plot ranges from poor to passable, with each topic presenting glimmers of promise before fizzling out.
Claire (Alice Eve) begins having issues with her at-home Alexa equivalent, God, who subsequently records each of her sins. Ben (Patrick Schwarzenegger) stalks his ex-girlfriend (Kylie Bunbury) via use of some high-tech VR equipment, and we are forced to fast forward and rewind through their lusty relationship. Liam (Alex Pettyfer) has chosen not to live out his remaining days as an immortal and instead “die naturally” with his new girlfriend Nina (Annabelle Wallis), but his family has other plans. Magda (Garance Marillier) takes work as a prostitute who rents out her entire mind and body to those willing to pay the hefty price. Visuals like a slick pool of oil or black sludge flowing over the VR viewer and some weird gnarly-looking umbilical cord connection try to clumsily slather the science fiction elements atop the semi-reality.
The main problem is that if presented similarly to Black Mirror wherein multiple episodes would tell separate technology-adjacent stories, Warning would have actual breathing room to flesh out each tale. Perhaps full-length would enhance a couple of these, while the rest would likely display uglier flaws. The film is edited and chopped up to show each segment being interconnected—a poor, lazy tactic that overstays its welcome quickly. As it stands, every aspect from top to bottom is simply half-baked. It remains difficult to care without a single well-developed character. The premise can crackle with possibility, but an anthology film is only as good as its weakest link.
The few positive points lie in the cinematography and acting departments. For an indie sci-fi, it looks deceptively expensive. The cast does the best they can with limited roles that were probably significantly more paper-thin on the written page. Honestly, a radio announcement about the new “covid 28” strain “in the US Virgin Islands” in the home stretch was enough to sour the film for me entirely. In spite of one strong segment that feels cute and funny, Warning has nothing to say that will be of much interest.
Heed the Warning when this anthology experiment heads to limited theaters, On Demand, and Digital on Friday, October 22nd.