RE­TURN TO PAST

India Today - - LEISURE - —Jai Ar­jun Singh

Fans of Brian De Palma’s ki­netic thrillers of the 1970s and the ’80s will sit up dur­ing the open­ing se­quence of the new, 10-episode Ama­zon Prime show Home­com­ing. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing a long track­ing shot—so char­ac­ter­is­tic of De Palma’s work—is Pino Don­ag­gio’s lush mu­sic score from Dressed

to Kill (1980). Like the open­ing scene of that film, the cam­era looks around a room be­fore mov­ing in to­wards the lined face of the hero­ine--in this case, Heidi Bergman (Ju­lia Roberts), who works as a coun­sel­lor for a com­pany that helps dis­ori­ented sol­diers ac­cli­ma­tise to the ‘nor­mal’ world.

There will be other De Palma ref­er­ences

in sub­se­quent episodes: mu­sic from Body Dou­ble and Car­rie (plus a role for Sissy Spacek, who played the lead in the lat­ter), split screens, slow zooms and other sorts of play­ful­ness with fram­ing. And a very dead­pan in­ves­ti­ga­tor de­light­fully played by Shea Whigham—so pok­er­faced that in some of his scenes, you might be un­sure if he is act­ing at all.

Home­com­ing also has its dis­tinc­tive way of build­ing a sense of claus­tro­pho­bia and dread, as it moves be­tween the past (2018) and a present day (2022), where Heidi, hav­ing long left her job, is try­ing to fig­ure out ex­actly what had hap­pened

at the Home­com­ing cen­tre and why there are so many gaps in her mem­ory. The show does a fine job of cap­tur­ing the un­ease of the sol­diers— no­tably Wal­ter (Stephan James), who seems warmly self-aware on the sur­face, but may have buried mem­o­ries that need to be plumbed—as well as Heidi’s in­creas­ing be­wil­der­ment. Aerial shots show us in­te­ri­ors with geo­met­ric ar­range­ment of fur­ni­ture, adding to our sense of the char­ac­ters as dolls trapped in­side a labyrinthi­ne jig­saw puz­zle. There are un­set­tling scenes in­volv­ing Heidi’s boss Colin (Bobby Can­navale), who al­ways seems to be on the phone, net­work­ing even as he runs the fa­cil­ity from be­hind the scenes. What does it all add up to, though? No spoil­ers here ex­cept to say that if you’re a sea­soned viewer or a reader of sci-fi/dystopia, this is fa­mil­iar ter­rain. While you’re watch­ing Home­com­ing, episode by episode, you can’t fault the per­for­mances, the cre­ation of mood, the touches of whim­si­cal dark hu­mour and the af­fec­tion­ate hark­ing back to the para­noia-thriller aes­thetic of the 1970s.

But if you were hop­ing for an earth-shat­ter­ing twist, you might end up feel­ing that this thriller is less than the sum of its parts.

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