Venturing into the “international movies” genre on Netflix is a commitment. Whether it’s a lighthearted Bollywood musical or a tragic French drama, the language and culture barriers usually mean work for the viewer, which is usually worth it for the rich story underneath. However, not all international movies suffer from those barriers. Occasionally, international film markets create English language films to appeal to all markets, and in this case, the result is completely extraordinary.
MindGamers is a 2015 Austrian science fiction drama following a group of genius students as they develop quantum technology in order to connect their brains together, forming a sort of hive mind. At first glance, it seems like a low-budget thriller, opening with scientific archive footage showing neural manipulation, then fading to an archbishop discussing the proof of God with a heavy Austrian accent. But after the cold open, things take a very 2015 turn.
To the pulsing noise of EDM, we’re introduced to the main cast, all looking very Cyberpunk, as they apply for a school for quantum mechanics. Like any ragtag group of main characters, they each have a specialty. Dylan Ramsey, who brings to mind peak Panic! at the Disco, is applying for “audio biometrics with a specialty in spatial unification.”
To demonstrate this, he shows off his “Emotional Neural Reader,” a processor he calls Ludwig von Beatbox, who senses his emotions and turns them into music. “Music made by my tears alone,” he says. This sets the tone of the rest of the film: early 2010s emo and goth aesthetics mixed with very real scientific techniques, each pushed a bit further to achieve a futuristic sci-fi story.
That story is where the film drops the ball. Behind the party scenes and copious parkour shots, the plot of the movie can get a little muddied. By the end it becomes a bit more clear, but it’s obvious this movie is trying to address so many topics and can only devote so much time to each.
This film is ultimately carried by its cast, many of whom are now quite well-known. The protagonist, Jaxon, is played by Tom Payne, who now stars in Fox crime drama Prodigal Son, and philosopher Maddie is played by Dominique Tipper, known now for The Expanse. The best part of the cast without question is Jurassic Park‘s Sam Neill, who plays the villainous Kreutz.
Much like Jurassic Park, this movie is a tale of scientists who asked if they could, but not if they should. Things start to go wrong when Agnes Day, who specialized is cognitive psychology, realizes how meaningless death is due to the multiverse theory, and kills herself.
Her sacrifice was foreshadowed — after all, Agnus Dei is Latin for Lamb of God — but is shocking nevertheless. It allows for the rest of the group to be aided by a human computer known as En.O.Ch and fully develop a “hive mind” technology.
They test this by connecting their brains to the brain of a paralyzed parkour genius, allowing them to suddenly start doing backflips with ease. They then add all the other students to this hive-mind, resulting in beautiful shots of 80-odd people moving in perfect unison.
The hive-mind backfires spectacularly. In a meticulously choreographed sequence, the film goes from psychological thriller to zombie slasher, before settling back into its creepy tone as Kreutz reveals his true intentions. It doesn’t quite make crystal clear sense by the end, but it’s incredibly satisfying.
Though told in a roundabout, non-linear way, MindGamers is so incredibly thought provoking, you’ll want to rewatch it with someone else just to be able to discuss it. Yes, it’s confusing, but that could be intentional in order to start these conversations, and even still, the Hot Topic aesthetic will keep you glued to the screen regardless.
MindGamers is now streaming on Netflix.