"Confusing," "boring," "cut-and-paste," these are the labels that have been applied to the film Push (2009). I'm not sure which film these other reviewers were watching and how much of the time they spent playing on their cell phones, but this movie explores a world in which super-powered people operate just out of sight and does it pretty well.
An opening sequence explains how government agencies around the world have, since World War II, been cataloging, collecting and experimenting on enhanced humans. These people have a variety of powers including telekinesis (Movers), planting memories and suggestions (Pushers), and predicting the future (Watchers).
The story follows Nick (Chris Evans), a Mover who lives in Hong Kong in an effort to stay off the radar of the various government agencies. He encounters a young teen Watcher named Cassie (Dakota Fanning) who wants his help to find Kira (Camilla Belle), a Pusher who escaped a dangerous lab experiment aimed at amplifying her powers and has stolen the serum that will do the same for others.
They are hunted by Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a Pusher working for "Division," a group heavily implied to be a secret branch of the US military and intelligence apparatus. He employs conscripts and other agents with a variety of powers to trace and manipulate his quarry into giving up both Kira and the item she stole from them.
The characters are interesting and clearly motivated. Nick has a deep distrust of people, wants to remain hidden and struggles with honing his powers. Cassie is deeply insecure but hides it behind her brash attitude. Kira is struggling to stay alive as the experiment takes its toll on her body. Carver is a pragmatic villain, bent on realizing his goals, but understanding the tenuous balancing act it takes to achieve his ideal ending, once noting that he won't kill one of the heroes because it would change the outcome and he likes the future as it is.
A wise choice by the film makers was to keep explanations of how things function plot-specific. There is quite a bit of world-building that goes into a sci-fi story about super-powered humans, but the audience isn't over-burdened at any point. Movers move, Pushers push, Watchers predict, and the other powers follow the same logical categorization.
Another excellent decision on the part of the writer and director was to avoid the usual problem of "super power" and "magic wielding" films - making the characters too powerful and then creating plot holes by the characters casually "forgetting" how to use their powers when the plot so needs. For the most part, the abilities that would be easiest to abuse, Moving and Watching, are underpowered or used by people struggling to manage them, or are merely images that require translation and are perpetually in motion. Only a few characters have finely tuned their powers, but they're bound by the realities of the universe in which they reside.
Angst, distrust and paranoia rule the day as the characters find there are few they can trust. Government agencies are easily confused with members of crime syndicates, and with good reason. The film has a clear anti-establishment bent and those sentiments always sit well with me, especially in thoughtful stories. The film isn't without its share of excitement among the larger action set pieces, and not everything is grim despite the limited resources of the heroes, something Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and the X-Men saga could learn from.
I didn't get the chance to view this in its theatrical release, instead picking it up on Blu-Ray in a bargain bin at a local video store. While I regret not getting to see it on the big screen, and feel a small amount of regret that there won't likely be a sequel, it is relatively easy to purchase or rent and I highly recommend it.