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Film Of The Week Virtually brilliant

Steven Spielberg's exhilarating sci-fi fantasy has his hallmark stamped all over it, says MARIA DUARTE

Ready Player One (12A)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

READY PLAYER ONE is set in a dystopian future where people spend most of their time in a virtual reality universe called Oasis in order to escape their bleak and harsh lives — not so far-fetched, given the growing popularity of VR.

Based on Ernest Cline's best-selling novel of the same name the narrative centres on troubled teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who in 2045 spends all his waking hours in the Oasis as a better and more confident version of himself.

On the death of its eccentric creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) — a modern day Willy Wonka — it is revealed that he will bequeath his legacy aka Oasis and his immense fortune to the winner of a three-part game within his virtual creation.

So Wade, along with his gamer friends, enter the competition determined to win. But they face fierce rivalry from Wade's secret crush, the enigmatic Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), and the evil and powerful corporate entrepreneur Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). He throws all his resources, staff and money at solving the clues which are based on Halliday's obsession with 1980s pop culture.

What follows is a wonderfully heartfelt homage to that era, which seamlessly combines CGI with live action shot in motion-capture.

Spielberg delivers a visually arresting big-screen video game — especially if you see it in IMAX — with equally compelling characters who you end up caring about. The problem is that there is so much happening on the screen at any one time it is hard to know where to look.

At times it is reminiscent of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as well as Tron but it is certainly more emotionally engaging and entertaining than the latter.

A rip-roaring ride and one that showcases maestro Spielberg's endless talents beautifully.


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