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Paradise Movie Review

Paradise Movie Review

The German science fiction thriller “Paradise,” now streaming on Netflix, poses an intriguing concept: Imagine a world where time itself could be traded as currency. Director Boris Kunz takes us into a future where the value of life is measured in years that can be bought or sold, offering others the chance to extend their existence.

In this film, we’re introduced to Max (portrayed by Kostja Ullmann), who persuades a young man to trade 15 precious years of his life for a hefty sum of €700,000. Max paints a picture of financial freedom for the young man’s family, promising an end to poverty and new opportunities. Once the deal is sealed, Max navigates through the bleak, dystopian landscape reminiscent of movies like “Children of Men,” crossing from the downtrodden areas to the affluent side of society.

Max is a top employee at Aeon, having negotiated 276 years in exchanges, which earns him recognition from the company’s CEO, Sophie Thiessen (played by Iris Berben). At the end of the day, he returns to his luxurious apartment and enjoys an intimate dinner with his wife, Elena (Marlene Tanczik), a doctor whose profession is undervalued in this alternate reality, much like teachers are in ours.

Meanwhile, a rebellion brews against Aeon, with resistance leaders taking violent action against those who have turned back their age. This sets the stage for a dark and thought-provoking dystopian tale.

Max and Elena head over to her parents’ place for a meal. Her dad doubts Max’s ethics, sparking a bit of a debate at the dinner table. It’s clear to everyone that the business Max is involved in with Aeon isn’t exactly noble—it breeds corruption and widens the gap between rich and poor. We’re all thinking it: Who would do such a thing? Yet, Max argues that the quality of life matters more than the quantity, but the night takes a turn when they return to find their apartment engulfed in flames. To make matters worse, the insurance company refuses to pay out, claiming negligence due to a forgotten candle, leaving our main characters liable for a staggering €2.5 million. Talk about bad luck with insurance!

They’re in a financial bind, and things get even more dire when we discover that Elena had pledged 40 years of her life as collateral for their home. Now, the debt is due.

For Max, this is a harsh dose of irony—thick and spicy like a flaming-hot Cheeto. We witness Elena’s aging process, which is surprisingly mundane: she’s seated, three needles are inserted, and just like that, it’s done. No fanfare, just reality setting in. Over a short period, Elena ages those 40 years without any cheesy makeup or CGI effects; instead, Corinna Kirchhoff takes over the role.

This twist leads us to several key revelations that propel the story forward: The aging process can be undone, a DNA match is required for the transfer, there are shady clinics in Lithuania willing to do the procedure, and Sophie Thiessen—doesn’t she seem to have found a fountain of youth, looking decades younger? And so, the plot thickens indeed.

“Paradise,” which is quite the misnomer, feels like it’s setting the stage for an English remake starring big names. Surprisingly, this would be a good move because there’s a lot of potential to enhance what’s already there. The premise is outlandishly impractical (and the film wisely doesn’t bother explaining the science), yet it poses a thought-provoking question: Is the worth of life measured by its duration or its substance? I’m stumped by that one, and it’s perfect fodder for deep reflection.

However, rather than delving into this intriguing concept with nuance, “Paradise” ends up being a lackluster affair, slipping into predictable chaos: abductions, gunfights, silly plot twists, and the cliché moment where our fleeing heroes conveniently find a car with keys ready for their escape—because without it, the story would hit a dead end. There’s even a scene with quicksand—yes, quicksand! It feels like a throwback to a bygone era in cinema. The film inadvertently critiques itself when, amidst all the commotion, a character laments, “There has to be another way than this free-for-all.”

On the visual front, the movie does an okay job but nothing extraordinary, borrowing its gloomy aesthetic and standard action scenes from countless other dystopian tales. Despite director Kunz and the team’s efforts at crafting this world, they largely ignore the deeper societal implications in favor of tired thriller tropes. Max’s morally ambiguous journey lacks depth, and Elena serves more as a narrative convenience than a fully realized character. The final act is especially disappointing, prompting eye roll after eye roll. “Paradise” is a textbook example of a great idea marred by poor execution.

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