Welcome to the future! It sucks!
The 2017 film, The Humanity Bureau, takes place in a dystopian future where the government is not to be trusted and bureaucracy ruins everyone’s lives. It’s kind of like the present except that it’s taking place in the future and Nicolas Cage works for the government. (Of course, for all I know, Nicolas Cage might work for the government in the real world, as well. I mean, it just kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?)
Anyway, the idea here is that, in the near future, America is out of resources. Some of its due to climate change and some of its due to a war and apparently, there was a plague as well. Because things got so bad, people gave up their personal freedom and basically decided to surrender control of their lives to the government. The government responded by creating The Humanity Bureau. The Humanity Bureau decides whether or not you’re a worthwhile part of society or if you’re just a drain on what little resources the nation has left. If you’re not found to be an “efficient” human being, you’re deported to a city called New Eden where everyone assumes that you learn how to become more efficient or, at the very least, how to not be a burden on society. The truth, of course, is far different.
Noah Kross (Nicolas Cage) is an agent of The Humanity Bureau. His bosses worry that Noah might have too much real humanity to be an efficient agent. After all, he drives an old car and he often talks about his childhood memories of going out to the lake and fishing. Of course, when we first meet Noah, he’s busy gunning down an old alcoholic who refuses to go to New Eden so he seems pretty efficient to us.
When Noah is assigned to investigate a single mother named Rachel (Sarah Lind) and her son, Lukas (Jakob Davies), it becomes obvious that their case is personal to Noah. Even though he’s supposed to immediately deport them, he allows them to have an extra day of freedom so that Lukas can sing Amazing Grace at a school recital. (The kids perform in front of a gigantic American flag, just in case you’re missing the symbolism.) When another agent (Hugh Dillon) shows up and demands to know what the hold up is, Noah, Rachel, and Lukas go on the run. It turns out that both Noah and Rachel have a secret agenda of their own….
When you hear that a film takes place in a dystopia and that it stars Nicolas Cage, that probably creates a certain set of expectations in your head. Unfortunately, Cage is oddly subdued for the majority of the film so those looking for a full scale Nic Cage freak-out are probably going to be disappointed. While the film’s story has the potential to be interesting, the film never really take full advantage of just how weird things could potentially get. This is one of those films where you know it’s the future because everyone’s in the desert.
That said, the idea of a major crisis leading to people voluntarily giving up their freedom to the state is not a particularly far-fetched one. As I sit here writing this, a lot of people are using the panic over the coronavirus pandemic to promote their own totalitarian political vision and what’s sad is that a lot of frightened citizens are just scared enough to probably more receptive to all of that authoritarian BS than they would be under normal circumstances. The Humanity Bureau takes place in a world where enough people have voluntarily surrendered their free will that the government can basically get away with punishing anyone who dares to think differently. The Humanity Bureau is often an amateurish film but, when it comes to portraying how an authoritarian state could come to power and would that would mean for those who refuse to conform, it gets things exactly right.
Previous entries in the 18 Days Of Paranoia: