If there’s one thing that’s been an improvement for movie fans since the start of the pandemic, it’s been the increased access to new films. With the theaters all but shut down, films whose releases weren’t moved over and over were sold to external streamers or were shifted to internal ones. In the case of director Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day) adaptation of author D. Eric Maikranz’s The Reincarnationist Papers, titled Infinite, it was moved to new-at-the-time streamer Paramount+. Though it didn’t seem to connect with critics or general audiences much, the sci-fi actioner delivered exactly what it promised: a high premise with blockbuster action. As someone who had a good time with Infinite, I’m delighted to report that home viewing audiences can now enjoy the film without a Paramount+ subscription via a digital or physical option that includes bonus materials on the making of the film.
If you want to know about Infinite in a spoiler-free capacity, check out the initial Paramount+ review. Moving forward, there will be spoilers.
Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) grew up with visions of alternate lives rattling in his mind so ferociously that he attempted to take his life via car crash. It didn’t do the job, though it did injure his head badly enough to require a metal plate. Between this and the medication he takes to reduce episodes, McCauley has had a difficult time maintaining a reasonable lifestyle. After he gets arrested trying to get his meds by way of a drug deal gone wrong, he’s put face to face with a man named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who wants information from him, information that could end all life on Earth. Just before Bathurst can put the hurt on Evan, a woman, Nora (Sophie Cookson), breaks into the jail to free Evan. More than that, she clues him in on the truth of his existence: he’s an Infinite, an individual whom, upon death, is reborn with all of their memories. He’s not schizophrenic, he just didn’t understand that what he sees, the strange things he knows, are all tied to who he really is, a man known as Treadway with the key to preserving life on Earth. All he needs to do is remember.
Infinite is the kind of film which, if entered into with the mindset of gobbling popcorn, you’re going to have a good time on a superficially thoughtful romp. All the actors are more than capable of making audiences believe in their ferocity, their skills at violence, making half the story completed for them. What hurts Infinite out of the gate is the voiceover from Wahlberg that tries to explain the premise before we get into things. It immediately dumbs down what follows rather than creates an air of mystery, or, at the very least, shifts the mystery away from the seemingly failed mission that opens the film via epic car chase through Mexico. The laziness of the voiceover is only amplified when Nora, after saving Evan, restates exactly what the voiceover did. Moments like these suggest that someone got nervous that audiences wouldn’t be able to follow what was happening (which isn’t all that deep) and added the voiceover to give away all the film’s secrets before it started. But if one forgives these trespasses, within Infinite is the kind of blockbuster entertainment that offers a respite from the toils of everyday life. You’ve got clever one-liners, impressive production design, and complex philosophical ideologies in conflict all bookended (and dispersed throughout) by smartly executed action sequences. The only time the action scenes really wore me down was when the CG overrode the live-action work, breaking the reality completely. One of the featurettes, “Anatomy of a Scene – Police Station & Forest,” breaks down the Police Station sequence, showing just how much in-camera work was done to make the rescue/reclamation scene believable and, yet, all of this is undermined by the explosive getaway that looks entirely false. The featurette explains the composite composition to create it, which, while impressive, just provides an explanation as to why it doesn’t look as credible as the rest of the sequence. Good CG and visual effects work should look as natural as possible, something which that singular sequence fails to achieve, bringing down an otherwise fantastic cinematic moment. Otherwise, the action is fun and energetic, you feel there are stakes in just about every engagement (they are infinite, not immortal, so death creates problems), and there’s real potential to carry the conflict forward into future installments. Granted, after starting with Dylan O’Brien as Treadway, it felt like a downgrade to go to Wahlberg for the remainder (just a different vibe), but then we get the reawakening of Treadway and it’s almost joyous in the possibilities. Given that Infinite was sent to Paramount+ and it wasn’t hotly received, any chances of a follow-up are moot. Bummer.
This is particularly frustrating as the film doesn’t look like the kinds of film that tend to be made for consumption on home theaters. Most streaming films (looking at you, Netflix) aren’t made to be shown in theaters and tend to lack the vibrancy and depth of a theatrical release because the cinematography is intended for as wide an audience as possible. This results in a lot of streaming films having the same CW-like look, even if the production value in the stunts or CG is higher. Rather than being shot the same way for every scene, cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Training Day; Avatar) gives each of the various locations its own look and feel. Sure, each are polished to a degree to capture the sleek, slightly alt-reality energy of the narrative, yet there’s still a sense that each location contains its own vibe. Pick a few scenes from Red Notice (2021) and you won’t be able to tell a jungle from a museum. Thankfully, this is reproduced wonderfully on the 4K UHD release of Infinite, free from the potential of buffering and decoding issues that may occur with streaming, enabling the look of the film to be at its best when viewed at home. Speaking of the reproduction, the audio has both Dolby Atmos and 5.1 tracks. I could only test the 5.1 and it came through clear and balanced. In the assault on Artisan’s place when the cluster explosives go off, you do get the sense of being inside of it, though it doesn’t feel as immerse as the way the sound plays during Nora’s initial rescue mission or the opening car chase.
If the bombast is what you’re all about, the four featurettes included with the release will provide you will over 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes information. There are few instances of hearing from the cast and none from Fuqua, so the bulk of the information for all of the featurettes comes from the department leads and stunt teams. This is a switch from most special features which put the cast out front and it really services the craft of filmmaking. Because of this, you really get a deep dive into the process of a making a loud and explosive film like Infinite that’s informative versus just marketing talking points. As mentioned previously, in the discussion of the “Police Station” sequence, we learn how they put together the composite image for the final explosion and all the pieces leading up to it (street closures, car ringing, actor coverage, and more). One thing that’s interesting to see, which I’ve noticed more and more since Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), is the use of a projector screen in front of the cast as they sit (or ride) on a prop surrounded by green screen. As a tool, it gives the actors something to react to, assisting with creating a more honest reaction to the mayhem. These are just a few of the things you’ll learn from the featurettes which also tackle production design, set design, props, and how they tried to do as much in-camera as possible, which required a great deal of creativity. For instance, the scene of Evan and Bathurst fighting in the plane as it spins: everything was rubber to increase safety as they didn’t know where the cast would go.
As someone who prefers physical formats over digital, I’ve been delighted to no end that several of the sold-to-streamers releases are getting physical releases. It happened with The Lovebirds, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, and Coming 2 America (two of those being Paramount films originally) and now it’s Infinite’s turn. Could the film find a new life on home video and maybe we could get a follow-up? Maybe. Stranger things have happened. It may be more likely that nothing will come of it, but, at the very least, we’ll have this to enjoy. Personally, this is the exact kind of nonsense that goes perfectly with fresh popcorn and a soda, which I can now do (for cheaper) whenever I want at home.
Infinite 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and digital Special Features:
- They Call Themselves Infinites—Join the cast and crew for a deep dive into the concept of reincarnation, character development, creative direction, and set design. (7:44)
- The Kinetic Action of Infinite—Get a behind-the-scenes look at the vehicles, stunt drivers, and technology used to achieve the exhilarating action scenes in the film. (8:56)
- Anatomy of a Scene – Police Station & Forest—An in-depth look with the cast and crew at the creation of two of the film’s major scenes that helped shape the story and pave the way for the climactic ending. (12:55)
- Infinite Time—Explore the creation of the film’s ground-breaking effects, including a breakdown of the on-set fight action and the stunning visual effects work employed in post-production. (5:11)
Available to stream on Paramount+ June 10th, 2021.
Available on digital April 12th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD May 17th, 2022.