“What Happened to Monday” is yet another dystopian spin on a future we are hellbent on refusing to avoid — overpopulated, polluted, climate-changed.
The formidable Noomi Rapace lends urgency, empathy and physical presence to what devolves from a smart, cerebral premise into something more conventional and illogical.
It’s a single-child-per-family future with the all the desperate, rational and draconian measures “society,” ordained by science, has taken to save the human race.
Yeah, “Handmaid’s Tale” and “Children of Men” and “Soylent Green” figure into this dark day that is frighteningly likely to come, with Glenn Close the overlord overseeing this “Future is Female.” And Yeah, her “Numbers add up” speech makes chilling sense.
Rapace plays seven identical siblings born into this world, hidden from it by assuming a single identity by their cunning and somewhat “selfish” grandfather (Willem Dafoe).
We see flashbacks that listen in on their grandfather’s lessons about “working collectively” and “selecting a career that takes advantage of your joint skills.” We see granddad preparing an apartment, Anne Frank Annex style, to secretly house one daughter plus six extras, drill them on hiding, tamper with government-issued ID bracelets to hide their numbers.
Each sister will leave the house only on the day of the week that corresponds to their name. Seven sisters, one identity — Karen Settman.
“The End of the Day Meeting” is how they debrief each other on what they encountered and how they keep their one story straight. Dinner time? A veritable smorgasbord of personality “types” bickering and belching, whining and biting into “bio-engineered” this or “genuine rat.”
At least Soylent Green isn’t on the menu.
“If we get this promotion, it’s all thanks to Friday.”
“Seven minds are better than one.”
Their adult life is seven widely different women — fearful or rebellious, violent or passive, sexpot or demure professional, tech nerd or violent head-butting brawler — sharing one look, one wardrobe and one career. Their doorman doesn’t realize the drunk he was talking to last night is not the put-together professional woman/adult he is dealing with today.
“They” have a nemesis at work, Jerry (Pål Sverre Hagen). And yeah, he says “I’m ONTO you.”
And one day, on the eve of a “big promotion,” Monday doesn’t come home. Run away, hurt in hospital, kidnapped and murdered? What do they do?
“I have a bad feeling about this” is just the start. Each sister must hunt for the missing one, piece together the clues, while carrying on, that day, as if nothing has happened. Everyone she encounters, from the doorman to the cops at checkpoints to the hated rival at the office could know something about Monday’s disappearance, could even be responsible for it. And now, here “Karen” is again.
Every encounter will be, as they say in the thriller game, “fraught with peril.” The six minds have to work together to save themselves and if possible, save Monday. And they still have to avoid Child Allocation Bureau thugs.
Rapace does a decent job managing every actress’ dream, the ultimate tour de force — seven disguises, seven personalities — even if even she seems embarrassed at having to call eac sister by her day/name every time one of them speaks to another.
The futurescape is the usual white on white interiors, chaotic, crowded exteriors, minivans dressed up in futuretech. Phones now throw their smart screens onto the palm of your hand from an implant on your wrist (No more texting and driving!).
But the plot takes an alarming turn toward the predictable and grows less interesting by the minute — the many MANY minutes — that follow it. In avoiding an “obvious” culprit the story cannot ignore the “obvious” quick end that would logically ensue by following the path taken.
“Mayhem” and slaughter ensue. In a society where “excess” children are put into humane “cryosleep” (so we’re told), it’s still a trigger-happy world.
“What Happened to Monday” becomes less an exercise in personalities, differing strengths dealing with a life-threatening mystery and more blandly conventional — chases, shootouts.
Visceral? Yeah. We’re talking Noomi Rapace, pound for pound the toughest actress in the movies, with or without a dragon tattoo. The violence is graphic and righteous and plentiful.
And as Rapace is involved, nudity and sex as well.
We get a gracenote, here and there, considering how circumscribed this sort of one-day-in-seven-outside life would be, even after 30 years of living. And sisters don’t share “everything.”
It’s rather less than the sum of its parts, but the action beats director Tommy Wirkola & Co. serve up ensure Rapace and “What Happened to Monday” keep punching above their weight.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, adult themes, implied violence
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close, Willem Dafoe, Marwan Kenzari
Running time: 2:03