Paycheck is a 2003 film adaptation of the short story of the same name by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The film was directed by John Woo and stars Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart. Paul Giamatti and Colm Feore also appear.
Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer; for lucrative sums of money, he analyzes his clients’ competitors’ products and designs new versions that excel above and beyond the original’s features. However, when he finishes each of his jobs, he undergoes a memory wipe with help from his friend Shorty to protect his client’s intellectual property. At the beginning of the film no job has extended beyond two months. He is offered a job from James Rethrick, an old college roommate and CEO of Allcom, which may take up to three years but will be rewarded handsomely with company stock. Jennings agrees, and takes up residence in the highly secure Allcom facility, falling in love with biologist Dr. Rachel Porter during his tenure. Jennings is injected with a special radioactive memory marker that will be used to track down how far his memories have to be erased. Jennings, finding himself three years later (in the year 2007 according to a form in an envelope shown later in the movie) and congratulated by Rethrick for a successful job, attempts to cash on his reward to find that he signed away his shares of Allcom. All that Jennings has to show for his time is an envelope claiming to be his personal possessions that he entered Allcom with three years ago, but instead contain a seemingly random assortment of items. As Jennings tries to figure out what happened, he is captured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation who are concerned over his involvement with Allcom and the connected disappearance and death of physicist William Dekker. Jennings manages to escape their captivity, quickly realizing that each item in the envelope can be used at the right time to keep himself out of the FBI’s hands.
Meanwhile, Rethrick is surprised to learn that Jennings managed to escape the FBI, and starts an investigation of how Jennings was able to escape. He discovers that Jennings left a message to Rachel to meet at a cafe that day, and attempts to fool Jennings with a similarly looking decoy. Jennings is saved from the encounter by the real Rachel, and together they escape both Rethrick and the FBI. Jennings comes to learn of his past romance with Rachel. As the two sort through the remaining items in the envelope, they encounter a microdot on one of the stamps on the envelope; up close, the dot reveals images, most of newspaper headlines that outline Allcom’s rising success due to a device that can predict the future and political battles over the technology, leading to self-fulfilling prophecies and a final image showing a planet devastated by nuclear war. The two come to realize that Jennings must have been working on this time predictive device while at Allcom, reverse engineering the details from Dekker, and that Jennings, having discovered this grim future, took steps to try to prevent it, including providing himself with all the needed items to stay out of danger after using the device to see into his own immediate future. Jennings also had managed to sabotage the device just prior to leaving Allcom, rendering it useless for Rethrick to attempt to use to trace him down.
Jennings and Rachel use the remaining items in the envelope to infiltrate Allcom and discover the machine. Jennings is able to find the circuit that he had previously altered to fail the unit, and uses the device once more, but sees a vision of himself being shot by an FBI sniper. The two rig the system to explode and then try to escape, but are cornered by Rethrick armed with a gun. Before Rethrick has a chance to shoot him, an alarm from a watch from Jennings’ envelope of miscellaneous items goes off, allowing Jennings to duck just in time before the FBI fires, causing the bullet to fatally strike Rethrick. Jennings and Rachel escape just before the time prediction machine explodes. The FBI agents allow Jennings to go free after investigating the wreckage of the machine. Jennings, Rachel, and Shorty begin a greenhouse operation, and come to realize that Jennings had used the device one last time while working at Allcom to secure a winning lottery ticket worth over $90 million, hidden in Rachel’s birdcage.