“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” Review: One Hell of a Ride

Fionn Whitehead in "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch"

Charlie Brooker’s latest genius creation is a Black Mirror movie that features the revolutionary concept of allowing viewers to choose what happens next.

But how do you review something when you know the version you watched will inevitably be different from the version that you, who is reading this, watched?

For me, the answer was to keep re-watching until I’d experienced just about every ending on offer ranging from a bad game review to abrupt suicide or double murder. Still, it is the experience you choose the first time watching which will be the best, because when you go in blind, the surprises that lie ahead are fresh and exciting.

To begin with, I’ll start by saying that the context and setting of the episode was brilliantly done. The depiction of Croydon in the ’80s was authentic and the characters were colorful and interesting. Being able to choose basic elements such as what music Stephan listens to was fun and satisfying. Although such decisions didn’t majorly alter the narrative, there were minor changes to the story which you notice if you choose to re-watch.

Stylistically, the movie was superb. The LSD montage was wonderfully done and there was a surreal, other-worldly feel throughout.

Now for the choose-your-own-adventure element. If you were worried that the decision-making process would jar the viewing process, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The decisions appear at the bottom of the scene and do not interrupt the narrative whatsoever. They are seamlessly added and are often based on questions posed by other characters. The scene smoothly continues based on what you choose.

When major decisions arise — such as whether to kill dad or spill tea on your computer — the decision seems to reveal more about our own character than Stefan’s. This is where things get crazy meta. When I chose the darker path, where Stefan ends up chopping up his dad’s body, I couldn’t help but feel like Netflix was watching and judging my darker preference when it comes to entertainment.

It would be impossible to review every ending, but I will mention my favorite. When Stefan is sitting at his computer, suspecting that someone is influencing his decisions, he asks for a sign. When “Netflix” appears as an option on the screen, you can’t help but laugh out loud. Trying to explain to someone in the 80s what a “21st century streaming platform” is, is no easy task. Things get even more meta when, after Stefan murders his dad, we are taken to the future where we see Colin Ritman’s daughter trying to reboot Bandersnatch for younger audiences. It’s ridiculous, amusing and sort of terrifying.

Overall, it’s hard to tell whether the concept Bandersnatch has employed is revolutionary or just a gimmick. Regardless, the film is one hell of a ride and will undoubtedly entertain, whichever grim path you decide to go down.