'Black Mirror' Season 5 'Smithereens' review: Andrew Scott's obsession with social media takes some dark turns for the troubled taxi driver
A must-watch for lovers of moving endings and for those who share Brooker's views of how social media platforms have stripped people of their senses
Spoiler alert for 'Smithereens'
Obsession. Bloody obsession. And that's what makes Andrew Scott's character such a thrill to watch. His transition from a man obsessed with social media that it puts him on the edge and leads to the loss of his loved one to one who hates its very presence is eerily terrifying to witness. The story arc, although futuristic, is uncomfortably familiar. Season five of the highly addictive series as it turns out is themed around obsession and addiction, and Charlie Brooker's 'Smithereens' is a moving tale that explains what obsession can turn people into.
Andrew Scott (best known for playing James "Jim" Moriarty in 'Sherlock') plays Chris, an IT engineer whose life has been shattered after he was involved in a devastating car crash. The actor plays the role of a broken man to perfection. The 'Sherlock' star is nervy and on edge, teetering between trying to get back to normal and fighting bouts of guilt and depression.
In the beginning, he is shown working as a driver for Hitcher, a driving service app, waiting for passengers to emerge from Smithereens, a social media company run by Billy Bauer (Topher Grace). And when he's not driving, he's attending a victim support group listening to people voice out the tragedies in their life.
Chris picks up a dapperly dressed young man (Damson Idris) the next day outside Smithereens and takes him hostage, which puts the police on his tail, only for Chris to swerve towards a quaint English village and stop right in the middle of a field. He threatens to shoot his passenger unless he gets to talk to Bauer, who at that point is shown to be on a 10-day silent retreat in Utah.
Eventually, Chris is connected to Bauer and the engineer-turned-driver has only request: "To listen to him" — fully as he has spent some time in putting his thoughts together. It is later revealed that Chris lost his fiancée in that fatal accident primarily as a result of his own actions. He flicks open his phone as he starts scrolling through the Smithereens feed only to realize that he was headed straight for a car and slams right into it. The woman dies and Chris, since that day, has been bitter, blaming himself and his obsession that took away a loved one from his life. After he narrates his story, he gets all set to shoot himself avoiding Bauer's earnest efforts to stop him from taking the extreme step.
Meanwhile, his hostage, after listening to the tragic tale tries to change Chris's mind as well, and it results in a struggle in the cab. The police sniper stationed to take a shot if things go awry misses her shot for the first time. The second time, a shot rings out and the screen fades to black.
The credits show people looking at the updates of the incident and carrying on with life normally. But the ending is quite ambiguous as we don't know who is shot.
Who died? The hostage or Chris? Did the sniper miss again? Did the sniper not fire at all, and was the shot from Chris's gun going off killing one of them in the cab?
Typical of Brooker to leave us stranded with an open ending, but it does seem that the sole purpose of season five has been about explaining terms such as addiction and obsession that blurs people's way of living. The plot is pretty much wafer thin, but what makes up for the muddled writing is Scott playing the role of a troubled man to perfection. The lilting voice and the constantly frayed-around-the edges persona lends so much depth to his character. Clearly, Brooker establishes that there is more to life than being glued to an app and he makes that pretty evident when Chris flips at the hostage saying, "The sky may turn purple for a month and you c***ts wouldn't notice."
If you are someone who loves moving endings and share Brooker's views of how social media platforms have stripped people of their senses, then this one's for you.
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