Animation is the perfect medium for a movie like “Metropia,” which runs on so many eccentricities that it’s almost cartoonish. That shouldn’t suggest that it aims for the “SpongeBob SquarePants” crowd, though, or that it doesn’t work as a futuristic film noir that shares a kinship with movies like “Blade Runner” and “Dark City.” There’s just enough warmth here to balance out the weirdness, and when you’re dealing with a film about Orwellian conspiracies and people who hear voices in their heads, it helps to get as much humanity in as you can get.
The film is set in the year 2024, by which time a big subway system has been constructed to connect all of Europe. Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) works and lives in Stockholm with his girlfriend, Anna (voiced by Sofia Helin), but with all of the people he interacts with, he usually just keeps to himself. He becomes so introverted, in fact, that he starts to hear a voice in his head (voiced by Alexander Skarsgård), one that speaks with Roger about things he’d never talk about in public. (Is Roger’s girlfriend being less than faithful to him?)
Roger begins to believe that he’s losing his mind, but when he bumps into a pretty blonde named Nina (voiced by Juliette Lewis), he’s even more baffled when she tells him that she knows how to make the voice go away. Nina’s reluctant to tell Roger exactly what’s happening, though she suggests that it has something to do with Ivan Bahn (voiced by Udo Kier), who runs a corporation that deals with all kinds of cutting-edge technology. Roger’s not quite sure if he can trust Nina (the voice in his head assures him she’s up to no good), her word is about as good as anyone else’s.
Even though the animation is pretty impressive, a lot of the film’s power comes from the voice acting, especially Lewis as the femme fatale who’s smarter than she looks. We’re never sure of her motives until the very end, which works well in a film that depends on ambiguity – not just the characters, but the world they occupy. Everything here feels different and familiar at once, so much so that the animated characters look strangely realistic. Given the two different genres that this movie has roots in, seeing it blend the bleak romance of film noir with the spirit of science fiction would make anyone feel a bit disoriented. People who hear voices might understand the feeling.