Dennis Liu, “Plurality” (2012)
A competent little short that looks very much like a proof-of-concept work for a longer feature film, “Plurality” plays like a conventional Hollywood action thriller flick, which is really to its detriment as the film is premised on a very interesting and currently relevant socio-political concern. In 2023, New York City brings in a new database known as The Grid, into which everyone’s identity and personal details have been scanned and which can be accessed by biometric data. This enables people to unlock and open doors, apply for bank accounts and passports, and pay for items using just fingerprint or other personal biometric identifiers. As a result, crime in NYC falls dramatically – it becomes impossible for people to steal things – but a new worry has befallen the security forces who monitor The Grid: a new phenomenon in which two people, looking exactly alike and using the same biometric details, are appearing in the city. Such “twinning” is becoming more prevalent. Two young blonde women, both named Alana Winston (Samantha Strelitz), have been spotted in different parts of the city, and Inspector Jacob Foucault (Jeffrey Nissani) is sent out to apprehend one of them, the other having already been taken into custody.
A major part of the film is taken up with the chase leaving little time to investigate the film’s major concerns with how NYC’s use of The Grid to spy on people as well as provide them with convenience raises issues of how much humans are prepared to sacrifice privacy and to expose themselves to corporate pressure to conform through the kinds of choices presented to them on The Grid, for convenience and ease. Issues such as identity – how can a person presume to have his/her own identity and individuality distinct from what is on The Grid? if a person’s data were to be erased from The Grid, what psychological impact would such erasure have on a person’s sense of self? – receive no coverage “Plurality”. (Perhaps in a feature film this problem would receive a hearing.)
With so much emphasis on chasing people around NYC, the film has no time for character development so viewers have little sympathy for what happens to Alana Winston once she is caught and interrogated. Foucault is just a yes-man officer doing his job efficiently. The film has a very polished and smooth feel with much emphasis on hologram special effects but it does not come across as anything out of the Hollywood action thriller ordinary.
The film definitely could be improved with less emphasis on the chase and more perhaps on exploring the nature of The Grid so that viewers can see for themselves the contradictions of a system that promises security and convenience but ends up delivering neither. Viewers would then ask themselves what kind of government or corporation would force such a system onto NYC; if they were to investigate further, they might be horrified to discover that The Grid might be digital kin to a massive Ponzi scheme.