Despite hints of an intriguing concept, Martin Grof’s Sensation doesn’t deliver on any potential promise in its execution.
Sci-fi, for some, is at its most enjoyable when it mixes high-concept ideas with a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. For others, it’s the focus on the sci within complex, head-scratching plots that ponder life’s existential questions. For neither, it may be relatively safe to assume, is Martin Grof’s nigh-on-preposterous Sensation an enjoyable experience.
After entrusting his DNA to a top-secret agency in a quest to learn more about his familial history, Andrew (Eugene Simon) gets thrust into a world of superhuman power and government training programmes when his results reveal special abilities. But as he and a group of fellow skilled individuals are shipped off to a remote countryside manor to hone these newfound powers, Andrew starts to discover that everything may not be as it seems.
To begin with, Sensation is a bizarre mix of near-cartoonish spy capers, overacting – particularly from Alastair G. Cumming’s Dr Daniel Marinus, who hams up the maniacal laughter and appears to be constantly a hair’s breadth away from literally twirling a villainous moustache – and sci-fi ‘mumbo jumbo’ that borders on the comical. But the sheen soon fades, and the performances turn wooden, the dialogue manages to be simultaneously over-explained and frustratingly banal and vague, and narrative momentum disappears. Simon’s Andrew is all over the place: not particularly relatable, likable or well developed past an expositional voice-over in which he unnecessarily recaps his own backstory in an inner monologue, and his performance is never quite convincing.
At times, things can feel ‘stagey’, with characters dramatically entering rooms only to stand in near silence or recite vague and irritating diatribes about sensory receptors. The script – co-written by Grof and Magdalena Drahovska – is weak, with the dialogue constantly feeling clunky, stilted and unnatural. The pacing is bizarre and there’s a lot of odd directorial decisions, which lead to a, frankly, preposterous final act that makes any remaining humour from the beginning twenty minutes dissipate faster than one can say: ‘dramatic violin solo’. Which, coincidentally and rather confusingly, does happen at one point.
So, while the idea of Sensation is conceptually intriguing, Grof doesn’t quite manage to mould the finished film into anything remotely like the advertised ‘Cronenberg meets Tenet’ premise. A piece of the sci-fi puzzle that will likely end up lost in the pantheon.
Sensation will be available to watch on Amazon Prime everywhere from April 16, 2021.