Boy 7 (2015)

Rating: D+

Dir: Lourens Blok
Star: Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Ella-June Henrard, Tygo Gernandt, Renée Soutendijk

I loves me a good dystopia. This definitely starts off on the right foot, with a teenage boy (Bakhuyzen) waking up on a subway train, with no memory of who he is, or how he got there. The black-clad cops are soon hot on his trail, but he escapes, through the help of a teenage girl (Henrard), who seems to know more about what’s going on. Then, in a restaurant, the waitress comes up and gives him a notebook – it turns out to be his own diary, which he had left as an aide-memoire to himself. So far, so very Total Recall, especially when he turns up in CCTV footage at the scene of a politician’s assassination.

However, turns out his name is Sam, and he was a bit of a teen hacker. Sam got into trouble with the authorities, in a somewhat-future version of the Netherlands where freedom has largely been traded for security. Rather than prison, he’s sent to a facility which initially looks like a diversion program for various troubled youths, including the girl, Lara. However, Sam slowly begins to suspect more is at play, with a faction within the government using mind-control technology – specifically, chips implanted in the pupils’ heads – to create “terrorists”. They will then stage false-flag attacks on federal targets, and these can be used as a pretext to clamp down on freedoms further.

It’s a smart enough idea: if a little too tin-foil hatty, it seems to have acquired additional resonance since. But the execution here is excruciatingly “young adult”, likely a result of the novel on which it’s based; by that, I mean too juvenile, and painfully self-absorbed. I’d rather hear more about the society outside than Sam, who is far from being any kind of compelling character. His amnesia is the most interesting thing about Sam, but virtually the entire film then unfolds in flashback (through his amazingly detailed diary…) leading up to the political murder. And don’t even get me started on the ending, where somehow smashing a monitor deprograms all the implanted chips. Oi, mate! Do you even computer?

It’s kinda nice to see Soutendijk again, as the head of the program; she still looks much as she did in Eve of Destruction, almost twenty-five years earlier.  And there’s enough promise in the concept, to leave me curious about the German adaptation of the film, based on the same book and made the same year (which, in itself, is certainly rare, if not a unique approach). However, I’m someone who suspects the balance between freedom and security is tilted too far toward the former these days. If the price to pay for not being blown up by terrorists, is the government getting to read my emails, I’m perfectly fine with that. They’d soon get very bored, trust me. This film did absolutely nothing to change my opinions on this topic.