Black Mirror Season 3 Episode 1: Nosedive review
With the third season of Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology Black Mirror comes a move to Netflix and a significantly boosted budget, instantly noticeable in the first episode. Directed by BAFTA-nominated Joe Wright (Atonement) and starring Hollywood star Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), the US-set Nosedive kicks things off with an extended running time and a colourful, glossy sheen. However, with more money and talent to play with comes a lot of hype, and Nosedive struggles to live up to it.
Howard stars as Lacie, a chirpy young go-getter climbing the ranks in a world in which every single interaction is rated out of 5. Post a great picture online? You’ve earned the highest rating. Accidentally spill coffee on a co-worker? That’s going to get you a 1. Desperately trying to increase her numbers so she can rent an expensive apartment, Lacie gets back in touch with soon-to-be-married old friend Naomi (Alice Eve), a vapid narcissist who nevertheless has a high 4.8 rating. Asked to be Naomi’s maid of honour, Lacie soon discovers just how difficult it is to earn a perfect rating all the time.
Like previous episodes Fifteen Million Merits and The Entire History of You, Nosedive takes us far into the future to see how modern technology could take over the world. Clearly inspired by Uber, Yelp, and the controversial Peeple launch, Brooker delves deep into the psyche of people who live their lives to impress strangers on the internet, and it’s easy to recognise yourself, whether you tweet one liners or Instagram pictures of your holidays. However, the episode establishes a lot of rules without spending much time exploring this dystopian future. Can you only become a success through high ratings? Have people become such sociopaths that they happily give low ratings to the mentally ill or homeless? And why is having the rating system removed from your mind considered a punishment?
Despite the undeveloped story, Bryce Dallas Howard gives the best performance of her career as the hard worker whose efforts to become a social player are thwarted at every turn. It starts off amusing and mildly creepy, but slowly becomes genuinely moving, and Howard shows her talent whether playing the scene as hilariously fake or on the verge of a real breakdown. It’s a shame that the supporting cast don’t get served nearly as well; Eve is impressively bitchy but a little one note, while the brilliant James Norton (Happy Valley) only appears for around five minutes. Thankfully, Howard is so good that she easily carries the episode from beginning to end.
Though Nosedive has a lot of great character work and a defiantly aggressive happy ending, it’s far from a perfect start to the series. Running over an hour, it feels flabby and slowly paced, taking a long time to get somewhere. However, Howard is outstanding and the climax, when we reach the bottom of the titular plummet, is among the most darkly funny scenes Brooker has written. Not the best opener, but a solid return for Black Mirror.
By Harry J. Ford
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