Film Reviews:

Yesterday's Target

(Barry Samson, US, 1996)

Hidden behind a truly dreadful sleeve design is this 1996 made-for-cable-TV movie. Yesterday's Target boasts a solid cast; Malcolm McDowell, LeVar (Star Trek Next Gen's Geordie LaForge) Burton, Stacey (SeaQuest DSV) Haiduk and Daniel (brother of Alec) Baldwin. Making the most of its modest budget this SF-edged thriller blends together elements from The X-Files, Twelve Monkeys and even Japanese SF animation classic Akira and manages to turn in an intelligent mix of conspiracy theory and time travel tensions.

Three 'extra-sensory' agents from the future are sent back in time to stop the formation of a covert government programme designed to genetically engineer secret agents with special powers. Unfortunately, the trauma of time travel leaves the three agents without their memories and they drift aimlessly into menial jobs instead of completing their mission. Two years later, a chance meeting between two of the agents triggers their memories and after teaming up with the third member of the task force set about finishing their job. But it's too late and the covert unit has been up and running for almost two years and its force of genetically engineered super-agents are already adults. The mission itself seems tough enough but there are deeper secrets yet to surface.

It's good to see LeVar Burton getting the opportunity to stretch his talents and here, seen as the 'heavy' (complete with 'bad guy' dark hat) for the majority of the film, he is convincingly ruthless without ever going over the top. The script is bubbling with clever ideas and director Barry Samson uses refreshingly thoughtful pacing to exploit them. The depiction of a 'safe house' hidden from the probing clairvoyant mind of Burton by a telepathic 'net' formed by a group of psychics in trance around the house is once such memorable touch. The minimal special effects exploited to the max are well-designed and executed. There are also a couple of genuinely unexpected plot twists towards the end which add tremendously to the overall storyline. The performances from all concerned are strong, but Stacey Haiduk is particularly impressive as a woman who doesn't know who she can trust or believe. In the big scheme of things, Yesterday's Target won't shake the SF genre a great deal but is worth a visit for many reasons, not least to watch LeVar Burton effectively pull off a bad guy role for a change.

Rob Dyer