Michael foresees all this, as well as his own death at the hands of his employer, while working on the quantum apparatus. He knows that he will be powerless to stop Rethrick after the memory wipe, and because he is under Crown Jewel-caliber surveillance he can't just send his post-amnesiac self a note explaining what happened and what needs to be done. Instead, he compiles an envelope of seemingly random objects innocuous enough not to raise any red flags, but which are actually clues that will help him change his fate--and humankind's.
It's fun to watch a baffled Michael unravel his own mystery with the skill, grace and synchronicity foreknowledge has allowed him to orchestrate, but the scheme feels underplayed and not as spectacular as it should be. There's no grand sense of destiny--just the comparatively petty machinations of man, however clever some of them may be. Affleck doesn't particularly convince as a genius rogue inventor, nor does he convey the level of charisma that would incite more of a rooting interest, but he acquits himself decently and restores some of his credibility following the "Gigli" debacle. Thurman does her "Kill Bill" character proud, even without the benefit of The Bride's D.I.V.A.S. assassin training; she is shaping up to be the new millennium's next action heroine, a role not even Rethrick's computer-generated divinations could have predicted for the sultry, smart seductress a few years ago. Director John Woo, progenitor of film violence as stylized artistry, rests on his laurels here. He keeps the action sufficiently engaging, but never mind-blowing. Unfulfilled potential is this "Paycheck's" FICA, but as a counterprogrammer during the drama-heavy Christmas season, it should cash in. Starring Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart and Paul Giamatti. Directed by John Woo. Written by Dean Georgaris. Produced by John Davis, Michael Hackett, John Woo and Terence Chang. A Paramount release. Thriller. Rated PG-13 for intense action violence and brief language. Running time: 119 min