You don't need to set something in space, or have aliens invading the planet, or lots of grand special effects, to make a science fiction story. The final frontier is perhaps not space, but the human mind, about which we still know next to nothing. Its exploration and visualization have been explored in many films, and Nir Paniry's Extracted
, is a fairly solid entry into this canon. While it grounds itself in simplicity and straight-forward psychology, it misses some great opportunities for dramatic content.
Brilliant scientist Tom (Sasha Roiz) has invented a machine that allows a person to enter the mind of another and walk around in their memories. He has meant his invention to be used in trauma therapy, but the funds aren't forthcoming. That is, until the government hears about it, and offers him an amount he can't refuse to enter the mind of a suspected killer (Dominic Bogart). Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and Tom finds his consciousness trapped inside Anthony; when we first meet him there, he's been inside for four years, unable to find his way out, while his body lies comotose, and Anthony lingers in prison, unaware of the invasion of his mind.
On the good side, Paniry does not try to embellish the memories with grand costumes or gravity-defying streets. These are the memories of a junkie, and as such are gritty and frequently lack detail. How many of us can remember all of the pictures on the wall of our childhood bedrooms, or if we really jumped into the pool that hot summer afternoon or just lingered by the side? As Tom tries to find a way to communicate with Anthony, and Anthony becomes aware of the fragility of his mind, the images fill in. It then becomes a race against time as they try to figure out if Anthony really did commit murder, and if they can get Tom out without killing him. The tension in the last fifteen minutes of the film is well-paced and follows a grounded line of scientific logic in its assessment of how memories are made and/or implanted.
It is rare that I wish a film was longer, but Extracted
lacks tension is the middle third, which should have been given more narrative time. It is revealed early in the film how long Tom has been inside Anthony's mind, and how well he knows Anthony's memories, but his realization of this and assumed subsequent panic and terror aren't part of the film. This is to its detriment; it's hard for a character to gain sympathy when all we see is the calm after the storm. Dramatically, the storm is far more interesting. While Roiz is solid as the ordinary man trapped in extraordinary circumstances, it is Bogart, as the junkie trying to find out what really happened, who stands out, as he is given far more emotional range to play with.
It's probably a little far-fetched to described a film that attempts to dramatize the inner workings of the human mind 'realistic', but Extracted
does succeed in this, by keeping the image simple and connected to the personality of the character. But without seeing his own emotional breakdown at his predicament, I found myself unable to attach to the main character, which led to a bit too much disinterest. Still, Paniry has a god mind and eye for this kind of cerebral sci-fi, and this won't stop me from seeing more of his work in the future.
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