When attempting to creative a unique sci-fi world, you’ll likely have to climb the mountain that is exposition; finding a way to explain the world and all its damn rules. Infinite, a flavorless bit of such storytelling, wastes no time getting down to that obligatory business. The film lays out its premise over an opening aerial tour of Mexico City, through a rather formal piece of voice-over. Never mind that all of this information, plucked from the pages of D. Eric Maikranz’s novel The Reincarnationist Papers, will be reiterated via dialogue later in the movie. Infinite takes no chances on losing anyone — which is rather fitting for a movie with more exposition than plot points.
The narration comes from Heinrich Treadway (Dylan O’Brien), who speeds through the car-chase prologue on a mission. The next time we see him, he’s someone else entirely: a Bostony loner played by Mark Wahlberg. Heinrich, you see, is now Evan McCauley, who’s shocked to discover that the visions running through his head aren’t symptoms of schizophrenia, as his doctors have long believed, but memories from past lives. Evan is an Infinite, the race of eternally reincarnated people who dress like fashion models, congregate in high-tech temple headquarters, and take sides in an endless civil war between different factions of their kind. The good guys, dubbed The Believers, use their centuries of knowledge and experience to aid mankind. The bad guys, handily dubbed to The Nihilists, want to exterminate the whole species, mostly to end their own constantly rebooting existence.
As someone who didn’t exactly pass as a high-school science teacher, Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like the go-to choice to play a man with the wisdom of countless lifetimes. And such an inclination would be correct, as he seems to sprain muscles trying to sell his character’s attempts at light-witted banter. Scholars in the field of Marky Mark studies might note how neatly Infinite fits into the career of a movie star increasingly obsessed with inserting himself into recent history’s direst dilemmas. What is immortality but a chance to play hero across the ages? In actuality, Wahlberg brings what he usually does to prospective franchise fare: wooden tough-guy posturing and some muscles.
This film’s setup isn’t too different from last year’s superhero picture The Old Guard, except that the heroes here have to switch bodies and re-endure it all again. The Old Guard wasn’t exactly great, but it did seem concerned with the logistics and psychological ramifications of its eons-spanning high concept. For all its info dumps, Infinite answers fewer questions than it raises. Is everyone reincarnated, and only the Infinites can remember their past lives? Do they remember everything, or just the most pertinent bits of backstory? The film’s villain, played an overly committed Chiwetel Ejiofor, has the master plan of a Marvel heavy. But the big bad’s also the one person on screen who seems to genuinely wrestle with the existential burden of eternal life, and Ejiofor assuredly gives it all his gusto. Perhaps the actor is channeling his own desire to be someplace, anyplace else.
When it isn’t explaining and and explaining and throwing in a side of explaining, Infinite veers into bland action sequences, proficiently and legibly staged by director Antoine Fuqua, against a sonic backdrop of generically chunky rock guitar. A Mission: Impossible riff here, a little Fast & Furious rip there, a sword fight on a tumbling aircraft. At least there’s a decent explanation this time for the fearless way people always behave in action movies. Why not jump off that plane or race into a spray of bullets if the worst consequence awaiting you is to go through middle school again? What Infinite fatally lacks though is personality. It’s all sci-fi table setting all the time, racing through introductions and plot points at a steady pace, its wheel manned by a star whose default mode for this kind of movie is hunky frowning. Infinite may last a finite one-hour-and-forty-six minutes, but reincarnation or no reincarnation, life is too short. A movie that feels less like reincarnation and much more like pure recycling, Infinite is leaden and junky; looping around itself into a soulless halt.
Infinite is available to stream on Paramount+