An excellent science-fiction thriller that, while reminiscent of a number of other films, including The Cell (2000), Identity (2003), Timecrimes (2007) and Inception (2010), improves on all its predecessors by having tight direction, characters the viewer can relate to and a brisk running time that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
US genre TV star Sasha Roiz, reminiscent of a laid-back young Jeff Goldblum, plays an inventor whose device allows a person to experience their own or other people’s memories as an interactive virtual reality environment. To get funding for this, he unwittingly does a deal with a law enforcement agency, who want to use it to investigate whether a supposed killer has committed a murder he claims no memory of. Roiz rushes to get the prototype finished for this initial demonstration. It works well enough in letting him enter the killer’s mind but malfunctions when he attempts to leave, putting his own body into a coma and trapping his consciousness in the killer’s mind for the next four years.
The script explores the morality of the device and the truths and fictions we tell ourselves. While tense and gripping when needs be, the film refreshingly doesn’t feel the audience has to be kept on the edge of their seats throughout, giving the human drama space to breathe. Since the budget doesn’t allow for the eye-boggling visuals of The Cell or Inception, it also avoids the over-familiarity of blockbuster set pieces that its predecessors got bogged down in. And despite the potentially labyrinthine possibilities of the scenario, it tells the tale in a straightforward manner that doesn’t require a scientist with a blackboard to explain the narrative to viewers without a Ph.D.
Indie actor Dominic Bogart portrays a sympathetic junkie and potential killer very well, experiencing his own incarceration in jail while he has another person trapped inside his head, and through the recreation and repetition of his memories, we learn how he has been betrayed and manipulated by the people he loves, throughout his life.
The story includes a twist that makes us doubt the central premise and leaves the plot open for a welcome sequel. This leads to some minor problems I have with the script, in particular: for a film that relies on a certain amount of real-life science, it seems strange that the filmmakers don’t acknowledge until the very end the well-established fact that each time a person remembers something, the memory changes slightly - a fact Roiz’s character seems incredulously unaware of.
Overall, though, a top-notch indie thriller and one that will hopefully find a distributor and a larger audience as soon as possible. Extracted is certainly the best film I’ve seen so far at this year’s SCI-FI-LONDON and its second screening on May 4 deserves to be sold out.