“We exist in multiple parallel realities at once. Whatever you do in this reality, there is another reality where you are doing quite the opposite. If you follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, you absolve yourself of all guilt for your actions. But they aren’t even your actions. It’s out of your control. Your fate has been dictated, it’s out of your hands.”
These lines from Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” describe the movie’s premise better than anyone can. Set in the 1980s and following the protagonist Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a young game developer who has set out to develop a creative game where the player’s choices influence the way the story unfolds. The movie follows the creation of said game, inspired by Stefan’s favourite choose-your-own-adventure novel of the same name by John Davies, and how it consumes Stefan and turns his world upside down.
Unlike any other Black Mirror episode where you sit back and watch the chaos unfold, you get to decide how Stefan’s story will move ahead. Using the click of a mouse or a tap on your phone/tablet screen, you make decisions for Stefan. From mundane things like choosing which cereal he eats, to much more macabre events, you are in control. Or so it seems.
There are 5 major possible endings with hundreds of combinations to get to those endings and different versions of them. Netflix also uses loops to guide you back to the main story in case you stray off far enough. One ending is hilarious in how it is so self-aware while the other endings are more like we’ve grown to expect from Black Mirror. The supporting cast, video game creator Colin (Will Poulter) and Stefan’s father Peter (Craig Parkinson) are also influenced by the decisions you make and have put in wonderful performances, especially Colin, who is an aloof, know-it-all, game savant, guiding Stefan in unusual ways.
This “Film Event” is a very unique experience, which is exactly what Black Mirror needed after a slightly mediocre fourth season. Filled with easter eggs that will excite the ardent fans of the series, it is a film that will keep you coming back to try and explore all the possible outcomes of the story. The continuity of the movie according to the choices is nearly flawless, with small details thrown in at the later stages which will make you marvel at the attention to detail by the movie’s creative team. However, it isn’t without its flaws. You are constantly faced by loops which are Netflix’s not so subtle hints for us to do better, it gets a little tiresome the third or fourth time around. Bandersnatch is a government conspiracy thriller, a serial killer comedy, and a time travel drama and a commentary on itself all at once. At the end of several re-watches, I was left with the feeling of satisfaction that Netflix had led me through the best paths that it chose for me. Ironic to the whole premise of the movie but also fitting, since, free will is an illusion.