Following (3.5 of 4)

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Christopher Nolan’s début feature is a noir story of a man named Bill who follows people. The film opens in a typical interrogation scene, as the protagonist tries to explain his weird fetish to the police. Bill follows people, as he says, no one in particular it is completely random. He simply wants to see who they are, where they live, to where they are going, etcetera. In short, he’s fascinated by the unknown and gets a sort of adrenaline rush from breaking the rules.

Eventually Bill begins following a man named Cobb. Cobb is one part thief, one part poet, one part genius and altogether a con. Cobb, however, seems to be as intrigued by Bill as Bill is of him. So naturally he begins training the “follower” how to burgle. Bill makes almost all his money burglarizing and conning people. His motto is: “You take it away… to show them what they had.”

The writing is fantastic. I don’t want to give away the end of the story or its thought-provoking twist. So I’ll move to other strong elements. The acting is very good. Bill and Cobb are convincing and a good match for dialogue duels. The blonde (unnamed in the movie) also does well in her own manipulative part among the three. The lighting appeared near flawless to me. It’s something I grind at when I’m nit-picking a movie, but even with the dark shadows and black and white footage, the lighting is excellent. It creates a temperamental mood, that is somewhere between Bill and Cobb’s worldviews.

I really enjoyed the movie. Nolan, I think it’s safe to say, was fascinated by non-linear plots in his earlier career. In Memento it is necessary and makes the entire piece work, but in Following it is distracting. Often the timeline felt like an editor’s playground. The constant movements of time and overlapping stories may not have been needed, but I’m not sure that the movie would have been as interesting without them.

I am sure I would have rated it 4 of 4 with a more clarified timeline. Oh, I’ll end a positive note–it’s short, only 70 minutes. And to tell a story this complex that fast is brilliant. Nolan is still gold for me.

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