“Escape the prison of a killer’s mind.”
Director: Nir Paniry
Cast: Sasha Roiz, Jenny Mollen, Dominic Bogart
Synopsis: A scientist who has invented a technique to watch people’s memories finds himself in a dangerous situation after he’s tasked with entering a heroin addict’s mind to see whether the man committed murder.
Although it has been repeatedly compared to Inception, Nir Paniry’s altogether more modest movie bears only a superficial resemblance to Christopher Nolan’s mega-budget sf epic in that it revolves around the ability of one person to enter the subconscious mind of another. In the case of Extraction, however, the deal isn’t to go in and implant ideas but to extract memories. The boffin behind it all is Tom (Sasha Roiz), one of those hunky scientists who only seem to exist in movies, who has an idyllic home life with a beautiful, pregnant wife (Jenny Mollen).
Just as unlikely as Tom the scientist’s hunkiness is the way he appears to have constructed a device for entering another person’s mind in his garage. But that’s where budgetary constraints come into play. Writer/director Nir Paniry had only a fraction of Nolan’s budget to work with, so there are no spectacular sets or mind-blowing special effects on show in Extraction. Tom and his assistant work in a garage, and while they might occasionally speak the kind of impressive techno-babble beloved of scientists from all those 1950s B-movies, their equipment is pretty much confined to a laptop and a little gun that implants a microchip into the subject’s neck.
Tom’s dreams of using his invention for philanthropic means are dealt a blow when he fails to secure the finance he needs to take it to the next level, and he’s eventually forced to compromise his ideals and demonstrate it for the purposes of a law enforcement agency which wants to enter suspect’s memories to determine whether they’re guilty or not. This agency likes to conduct business at the dead of night in deserted hangars like some kind of organised drugs cartel but, hey, money’s the same colour whatever its source, right?
Because Tom has had to rush final refinements to his device the inevitable happens during the hastily prepared demonstration, and he finds himself trapped in the mind of Anthony (Dominic Bogart), an addict accused of the murder of his girlfriend. Quite how this happens, or exactly how Tom and Dominic’s minds connect is a little hazy.
Extraction’s intriguing plot opens the way for all kind of moral and philosophical diversions which the movie largely by-passes in order to focus on its protagonist’s attempts to escape from Anthony’s mind after four years with nothing to do but explore the prisoner’s memories. It does a good job of exploring the repercussions of the way that memories change slightly each time we revisit them, and the way that our memories might be altered by the influence of external factors, but avoids such matters as the implications of Tom altering Dominic’s memories by appearing in them or the psychological effect of discovering you have a stranger squatting in your head. But then, the movie would have needed to be twice as long in order to incorporate such complex subjects and would have probably needed to come with an explanatory booklet in order to make any sense. As it is, the plot is fairly easy to follow.
Extraction has the feel of a movie with a big idea that it isn’t quite able to explore with the kind of attention to detail or imagination that it deserves. That doesn’t make it a bad movie — it will certainly keep most viewers entertained, and it ties up most of its strands in a way that remains consistent with its theme. Paniry does make some questionable choices, however, not least of which is a non-linear prologue which makes sense once we know what is going on, but is just confusing on first viewing. Paniry is also an advocate of the wobbly-cam school of film-making, something which I find to be a highly irritating affectation that always takes me out of a movie rather than immersing me in it.