Fifteen Million Merits(2011) Movie Recap

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Written By Mohateasam Pavel

 

Today I will explain to you a sci-fi film from 2011, titled Fifteen Million Merits.

Spoilers ahead!

Director Euros Lyn

Writers

  • Charlie Brooker
  • Konnie Huq

IBDB Rating 8.0

In the far future, poor people live in facilities where they must ride stationary bikes to earn “merits”, which they use to pay for most of their daily actions. Food costs merits, but so does the bit of toothpaste they consume every morning. Their rooms are small squares covered with screens that can be used to watch shows and play games that must be paid for, but these screens also play adult ads even while you’re in the bathroom, and skipping those costs merits as well. Each user has an avatar in the system, and getting clothes and other decorations for it must be paid for too. There are no vacations or breaks outside, the facility is their only life – unless they spend a huge amount of merits on a golden ticket to appear on the talent show Hot Shot, which could possibly earn them a better life.

One of these bike riders is Bing Madsen, who has over fifteen million merits. He isn’t a big spender, preferring his avatar to stay basic, but he does skip all the ads whenever they pop up and spends his evenings playing video games. Bing doesn’t care for the talent show or dumb comedies, so he sticks to music or landscapes while he bikes, always staying chill about it.

This is very different from the guy on the bike next to him, Dustin, who is rude and obnoxious. He laughs loudly at his dumb humor shows, watches adult movies in the biking room in front of everyone, treats the cleaners like garbage, and makes fun of the people who have health problems because of the bike. Bing can’t stand him, but he doesn’t ask him to stop either. Another coworker of his is Swift, a young woman that practices violin while she bikes and has a crush on Bing. One day during lunch, Swift teaches him how to get apples from the machine whenever they get stuck and tries to chitchat with him after making a joke, but Bing only thanks to her before going to his table.

Later that day, Bing is trying to play video games when another ad appears on the screen. Tired of this, he closes his eyes to have a moment of no-screen peace, but this only causes the system to put all the screens on red and start blaring a warning that he should resume viewing. Bing gives up, opens his eyes and, seeing as he has merits to spare, he decides to watch an adult movie for the night. The next morning, he notices there’s a new coworker in the elevator, a beautiful girl called Abi Khan. One of the bikers isn’t on his station either, and that’s because he couldn’t take it anymore so he became a cleaner, which Dustin makes fun of him for.

Later, in the bathroom, Bing hears a beautiful singing voice coming from one of the stalls and discovers it’s Abi. Starting to develop a crush on her, Bing tries to talk to her, but he doesn’t know what to say. His awkward attempt at conversation is interrupted by yet another ad appearing on the screen in front of him, so they can’t do much more than just go back to work. Abi takes over the bike that was freed by the guy that became a cleaner and Bing keeps on glancing at her while he rides, which makes Swift jealous. During lunch, Abi uses the paper bag the apple comes in to make an origami penguin, but when she puts it on her bike as decoration, the cleaner takes it away because it isn’t allowed.

It’s at that moment that Bing notices Abi glancing back at him, so when he goes to bed later that night, he can’t stop thinking about her and keeps on singing the tune he heard from her in the bathroom. When he sees the ads for Hot Shot on the screens, he gets an idea. The next day, Bing sees Abi’s apple got stuck in the machine and teaches her how to get it out, taking the chance to start a proper conversation this time. Abi just turned twenty-one, which is the age people are taken into the biking system. She wanted to go to the same facility as her sister, but that one is full, so she’s here now. Bing uses the same joke about healthy food that Swift had used on him and explains how the unhealthy food is cheaper but you gotta burn it later, and then you’ll want even more sugar, creating a vicious circle. He also tells her he heard her sing and thinks she has a beautiful voice, but Abi downplays it, saying it isn’t a big deal and it’s just a song her family has passed from mother to daughter for years. Believing she has the skills to go big, Bing mentions she should go to Hot Shot, and if she doesn’t have the twelve million, then he’ll gift them to her. It’s money he got from his brother when he died last year and he almost never uses it – he doesn’t want new silly apps or clothes for his avatar. It’s all confetti, and what he wants is something real, something new and out of the boring routine. Bing thinks Abi has that, so after he insists a lot, Abi accepts to go as long as he keeps her company.

Later when he’s back in his room, Bing discovers that the ticket costs fifteen million, not twelve, which would leave him with only nine thousand merits left. He decides to go for it anyway, and when Abi receives the gift, she responds with her avatar blowing a kiss at Bing. The next day, Bing and Abi take the elevator together to the floor where the show is recorded. Abi gifts Bing an origami penguin, pointing out that it folds flat so he can hide it in his waistband. In return, Bing holds her hand to comfort her when he notices how nervous she is. When they get to the studio, Abi is allowed in because she has the ticket, and she introduces Bing as his “friends and family allocation”, for which he gets a temporary tattoo on his hand that allows him to enter as well. Then they go to the waiting room, which is crowded with participants waiting for their turn – some of them arrived today, but others have been there for a whole week. However, Abi doesn’t have to wait long: because of her good looks, she’s chosen to go next. This makes a singer named Glee complain about the lack of respect for arrival order, but the bouncer reminds her he’s just following commands from the people in charge. Abi is taken to do a screen test, which only consists of recording her in front of the camera saying she wants to be a famous singer before she’s immediately taken backstage. A stagehand gives her a carton of a drink called “Cuppliance” and Abi tries to turn it down, but she’s told it’s compulsory for all contestants to calm their nerves and keep them from puking. Abi drinks it and begins feeling a bit cloudy, but goes to the stage to perform anyway. There are three judges waiting for her: Hope, Charity and Wraith. Hope encourages her to go ahead and sing, but Wraith keeps asking her to take off her clothes. Abi ignores him and sings “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” by Irma Thomas, and the public likes her except for Swift, who continues to be jealous of her. Hope and Charity also like her performance, but Wraith looks bored the entire time. It’s Hope that cuts her song short and tells her that while this is the best singing they had this season, her voice is just good, not great. However, she is absolutely gorgeous, and she’d do great in Wraith’s adult channel. The three judges begin pressuring her into accepting a role in adult films, reminding her this is the only way to succeed and leave the biking life behind. The market is, after all, oversaturated with singers; and other people would die to have the chance she’s being given. Bing is backstage seeing all this and tries to rescue her, but security takes him away right before Abi, still feeling the effects of the brain fog and overwhelmed by the audience chanting “do it!” at her, accepts the deal. But the way she says “I suppose” shows she’s not at all happy about it – in fact, she begins crying. Back in her room, Swift is disappointed by this result too.

A couple of days later, Bing is back to his normal life and feeling awful about what happened. He keeps the penguin Abi gifted him together with her empty carton of Cuppliance hidden under his mattress and goes through his routine in an awful mood, especially when Dustin puts on the adult channel and he has to hear Abi give interviews while sounding soulless. Because of the money he’s spent on the ticket, he also has to go back to eating junk food.

Later in the evening, when he’s playing videogames, the ads take over the screen again, showing Abi’s first adult film. Bing doesn’t have enough money to skip it so he covers his eyes, but the blaring alarm is so high pitched that he can’t stand it for more than a few seconds. After opening his eyes again, he tries opening the door, but portals are disabled during commercials. The heartless image of Abi on the screens is too much for Bing to handle so he begins freaking out, yelling and hitting the screens until one of them breaks. When Bing notices a glass shard on the floor, he makes a test by making a cut on his tattoo – this gives him an idea for a plan. From then on, Bing begins living a frugal life, concentrating on saving merits. He’s the first one to show up at the bikes in the morning, uses just the tiniest drop of toothpaste, and doesn’t buy food anymore: instead, he takes apples stuck in the machines and leftovers from the tables. In the evenings, instead of playing videogames, he practices a dance routine before crashing on the bed completely exhausted. Eventually, Bing manages to make back fifteen million merits and uses it to buy a ticket for Hot Shot. The day of the show, he takes the shard with him by hiding it in his clothes, and the metal detector doesn’t sense it because it’s made of glass. He’s the first one to arrive, but soon the room is crowded again, and even Glee is back. The only reason he gets chosen quickly is that the bouncer is told to bring someone ethnic for a change. For the screen test, he simply says he’s an entertainer, and when he’s offered Cuppliance, he tells the stagehand that he’s already drunk his, showing her Abi’s empty carton that he also sneaked in hidden in his clothes. Once he gets on the stage, the judges don’t have much to say and quickly allow him to perform, so Bing begins dancing. After a few seconds though, he pulls out the shard and holds it against his neck, threatening to make things bloody if anyone gets close. Wraith says he doesn’t care if he dies, but Hope tells security to stay back and both he and Charity encourage him to speak. Bing begins ranting about the system they live in, pointing out how they use people like fodder and everyone is out of their minds with desperation, insulting the judges for making things worse. By the time he’s done, the public has fallen silent with shock. However, they begin screaming and clapping when Hope calls this the most heartfelt performance they’ve ever had. Hope pretends to have understood what Bing is trying to say, saying he likes “his stuff”, and offers him to keep transmitting his message on his channel, offering thirty minutes twice a week on his streams. Charity agrees that she’d watch such passion and Wraith calls the shard a “neat gimmick”, so like it happened with Abi, the whole audience except Swift begins chanting “do it!”. The pressure is too much, so Bing gives in and accepts the deal.

Some days later, Glee appears on Hot Shot and is kicked out because she’s an awful singer. But now there’s a new show on tv: Bing with his shard against his neck, ranting about the system with fury in his eyes. That is, until the show is over, then his face takes on a normal expression as he invites everyone to tune in again next week for another speech. Now Bing is living in a luxurious apartment with plenty of fresh orange juice, a proper penguin figurine, and the view of a forest surrounding him instead of commercials.

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