Following (1999)
Following (1999)

Genre: Psychological Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 9 min.

Release Date: April 2nd, 1999 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Christopher Nolan Actors: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell, John Nolan, Dick Bradsell, Jennifer Angel

 


 

F

ilmed with a minimal budget, in black-and-white, and mainly with handheld camerawork, “Following” is a brilliant little exercise in independent filmmaking and psychological thrills. It’s short (a mere 69 minutes) yet involving and intelligent, presenting a deceptive plot with a complex editing technique that mixes up the timeline doubly as much as in Tarantino’s early works. A superb introduction to Christopher Nolan’s storytelling methods, style, and infatuation with intricate plotlines, “Following” is also further proof that a solid concept with a few good twists and determined filmmakers can always beat out a lack of funding.

In London, Bill, who also introduces himself as Danny (Jeremy Theobald), is a bit bored and lonely, so he starts shadowing or following random people just to see where they go and what they do. He’s between jobs, but fancies himself as a writer, and reasons his “hobby” as gathering materials for his characters. Like a secret agent of sorts, or a peeping tom, he slinks around, targeting various people for observation. Watching human beings raises hundreds of thousands of questions – and he likes the idea of having a few answered.

Danny creates a few ground rules about following, but ends up breaking them when Cobb (Alex Haw), a well-dressed thief, catches him in the act. The tables are turned, coercing Danny to accompany Cobb on his next job. While rifling through an apartment, he learns that the task isn’t about money – it’s about the adrenaline rush that comes with interrupting people’s lives, examining personal objects and private treasures, and letting the victims know what’s been done. Although the duo gets caught, a hasty, successful getaway gives Danny a taste for the satisfying, voyeuristic form of intrusion. He’s intrigued, excited, and rapidly addicted. But multiple goals are underway – the houses they burgle aren’t exactly random, nor are the people they target. One of the characters is a beautiful blonde (Lucy Russell) who is mixed up with a wealthy gangster. And as things start heading south for Danny, Cobb has a few surprises of his own…

The exchanges are frequently witty, marked by rapid cuts, and always fuel the story, which is told in director Nolan’s signature style: out of order. An obvious stepping stone to “Memento’s” inimitable editing pizzazz, “Following” features bizarre techniques that divide the story into multiple pieces at different points in time and plays them back in an alternating pattern. Some moments are even repeated for clarity. It’s occasionally hard to follow, but keeps the suspense high and the questions abundant. When Danny appears bruised and bloodied in one non-chronological sequence, it keeps the viewer guessing as to how he ends up in that condition, especially when previous foreshadowing insinuates disastrous possibilities.

“Do you ever worry about being caught?” Danny asks the calm, collected Cobb. “Why else would I do it?” The thrill of engaging in something illegal, mysterious, and invasive is enough influence for the young writer, who keeps up the disconcerting activities with his new accomplice right to the very end – when he realizes that everything he thought he was in control of has been deviously spirited away.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10