Wander is a 2020 American thriller film directed by April Mullen and written by Tim Doiron. It stars Tommy Lee Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham, and Roger Dorman. The story focuses on two conspiracy theorists and their investigation of a murder.
Arthur Bretnik (Aaron Eckhart) is a mentally unstable conspiracy theorist and private investigator whose family was killed in a series of vehicle accidents. Prior to becoming a conspiracy theorist, he was a detective who investigated a series of unusual deaths involving individuals whose chests appeared to have exploded, including one incident where a victim’s body was stolen from a morgue. Bretnik and his friend Jimmy Cleats (Tommy Lee Jones) host a podcast that discusses conspiracy theories.
One of the podcast’s listeners hires Bretnik to investigate the death of her daughter in the small town of Wander, New Mexico, which she believes was a covered-up murder. When he arrives, he meets Sheriff Luis Santiago (Raymond Cruz) and attempts to investigate the incident, but becomes convinced that he is being followed and that the death may be part of the same “conspiracy cover up” that caused the death of his own daughter years prior. Bretnik’s suspicions reach their peak when, after believing he is being followed by two men in an old Jeep Cherokee, he discovers it transporting a woman’s body, which it moves into a derelict garage. When Bretnik goes to investigate, he discovers a series of underground rooms where people are trapped and implanted with microchips.
Cleats arrives to investigate with Bretnik, and the two discover that the podcast listener’s identity is actually faked. The two go to investigate; before going, Bretnik places an envelope in a mailbox. When Bretnik and Cleats arrive, the podcast listener violently attacks Bretnik and claims Cleats is involved before her heart suddenly explodes, killing her; Cleats claims the “involvement” she mentioned is that he got her to report the death to Bretnik for money, and the two bury the woman’s body in the desert. Bretnik and Cleats plan to acquire photographic proof of the garage’s existence to expose it to the public. Meanwhile, Bretnik’s lawyer, Shelly Luscomb (Heather Graham), discovers Bretnik’s trailer and determines he has traveled to Wander.
Bretnik and Cleats enter the underground laboratory, Later, Bretnik is involved in a shootout and is apprehended by the FBI. Bretnik is questioned, where he explains what happened afterwards.
When Bretnik and Cleats enter the underground laboratory, Bretnik learns the microchips are being used to control immigrants, minorities, and the lower class. However, the laboratory is attacked by one of the men from the Jeep, and Cleats is shot. However, Bretnik is saved by a woman named Elsa Viceroy (Katheryn Winnick), apparently from the CIA, and the two meet Sheriff Santiago, who is revealed to also be working against the microchip operation. Elsa and Santiago explain that the victim whose body was stolen from when Bretnik was a detective, as well as Bretnik’s family, were both embedded with microchips, and that their deaths were used as a cover-up.
Bretnik, Elsa, and Santiago plan to assassinate the inventor of the microchips, who is on a rare visit to Wander. Sheriff Santiago meets with the inventor alongside the men from the Jeep at the garage, when Elsa and Bretnik move to ambush them. Elsa shoots the others, including Sheriff Santiago, before allowing Bretnik to get revenge on the inventor for the deaths of his family and Cleats; Bretnik shoots the inventor multiple times, killing him. Elsa then tells Bretnik to clear the data of the computer inside the garage before leaving. Bretnik is promptly apprehended.
However, Shelly informs Bretnik that the medication he takes for his mental trauma causes anxiety and delusions, and tells him that the garage was fully derelict and empty, the morgue he investigated and initially found bodies in was not in use for years, and that Cleats’ decapitated body was located in Bretnik’s car. Bretnik, unable to believe whether his turn of events was true or if the entire investigation was simply a delusion, as well as faced with the possibility that he killed his friend, breaks down.
Bretnik is placed in a holding cell awaiting placement in a mental institution. He is met in his cell by Elsa and an alive-and-well Cleats. They explain to Bretnik that the entire investigation was part of their plan: Bretnik was being used all along as a way to tie up loose ends. Bretnik’s mental state allowed them to ensure he would continue to investigate, and allow them to pin any blame on the events in Wander on him.
In the mental facility, Bretnik barricades himself in his room and digs in his chest with a blade. As he dies, he laughs and smiles; in his hand is his own microchip, proving his earlier fears that he himself had a microchip placed in him after the accident that killed his wife.
Meanwhile, the envelope Bretnik mailed earlier is sent to Shelly. Inside the envelope is all of the evidence and photographs Bretnik took of the conspiracy, allowing it to be exposed.
Aaron Eckhart as Arthur Bretnik
Katheryn Winnick as Elsa Viceroy
Heather Graham as Shelly Luscomb
Tommy Lee Jones as Jimmy Cleats
Raymond Cruz as Sheriff Luis Santiago
Brendan Fehr as Nick Cassidy
Roger Dorman as Leiland Ashgrave
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