Severance: Ben Stiller’s dark and dystopian austere thriller on Apple TV+

REVIEW: Breakup (now streaming on Apple TV+) certainly opens with a bang.

An evocative and provocative aerial shot of a woman (Britt Lower) sprawled across a meeting table.

Awoken by a disembodied voice, she is clearly disoriented, but also sober. The voice asks her if she can answer a survey – five questions.

“What do I get in the end? she asks, reasonably enough. “It depends on your answers,” is the cut-off response. But when she can’t find one for the first question, “What’s your name?”, it’s clear to her – and to us – that something is wrong.

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What is quickly revealed in this first of nine episodes is that the male voice belongs to Mark (Adam Scott). A member of Lumon Industries’ macro data refinement team, he was called in to conduct this interview in the absence of the usual department head, Petey.

As Mark has just been informed by superiors, Petey is no longer with the company. “You were one of my favorite business friends,” one says, as Peggy (Patricia Arquette) updates Mark’s key card, confirms that “a handshake is available upon request. and observes that “Petey was the only one who really appreciated your humor”. ”.

Adam Scott is Severance's history professor turned macro data refiner, Mark.


Adam Scott is Severance’s history professor turned macro data refiner, Mark.

After the aforementioned interview becomes more and more pear-shaped, culminating in Mark being injured by a flying object, he is forced to apologize to Peggy for his failure.

“Are you angry against me?” he moaned. “For incompetence or disobedience?” she growls.

However, at the end of his shift, after walking through the stark and sterile hallways, taking the elevator back to the surface, and trudging through the parking lot to his vehicle, he completely forgot about his horrible day. In fact, he’s greeted with a note and a gift card on his windshield apologizing for the cut to his forehead he suffered “carrying boxes.”

Severance opens with an evocative and provocative image - and gets progressively stranger.


Severance opens with an evocative and provocative image – and gets progressively stranger.

Back in his empty house, Mark settles in for a night alone. But his loneliness is shattered by a knock on the door from his sister Devon (Jen Tullock), reminding him that he’s agreed to come round to her house for a “dinner” without food.

As the few other assembled guests introduce themselves, Devon reveals that Mark was a former history teacher specializing in World War I and that his wife taught Russian literature. “But he made the morally, socially, ethically and scientifically controversial decision to join Lumon’s SVR’D floor,” she believes, reminding him that “forgetting him eight hours a day is not the same thing than to heal”.

A kind of mixture of It’s not my life, Tripods, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind and those of Netflix Maniacal, BreakupThe premise of might not exactly be the most innovative slice of sci-fi, but it’s well executed and offers plenty of intrigue.

Patricia Arquette plays the no-frills Peggy in Severance.


Patricia Arquette plays the no-frills Peggy in Severance.

Following his excellent work on the prison drama Escape to Dannemoradirector Ben Stiller does a terrific job of bringing the futuristic yet retro atmosphere of Lumon Industries to life and drawing the viewer into the mystery of what they really do.

It also makes the most of the fabulous ensemble which also includes John Turturro and Christopher Walken, although it’s really Scott’s show, the former big little lies and The right place star beautifully delineating the two disparate and very separate parts of Mark’s life.

To say more would be to spoil some of the delights of Breakupbut whether you see it as an allegory of modern life or just a high-level escape room, it offers plenty to think about and enjoy.

Breakup is now available to stream on Apple TV+.

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