Christopher Nolan Films — Following

Posted: August 28, 2010 in Film, Reviews, Sydney Freeman
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[Reviewed by: Sydney Freeman]

“You take it away and you show them what they had.”

For those big fans of Inception, you can see where Christopher Nolan got his start. Following is Nolan’s breakthrough picture. One made with an extremely tight budget of $6,000 over the course of a year. Invoking the aesthetic of low budget 1940’s and 1950’s film noir Following tells the story of a writer named Bill. Bill needs inspiration for his new piece of writing so he takes to following people around London. This quickly becomes an obsession as he follows more and more people. Of course he establishes rules for himself like never follow the same person for too long or never follow a woman into an alley after dark. Nevertheless he breaks his most important rule 10 minutes into the movie. Never follow the same person more than once.

The person he follows on multiple occasions is the sharply dressed, smooth talking Cobb. Cobb, having noticed someone following him quickly confronts and befriends him. Cobb’s a burglar with a simple rationale; if you break into someone’s house then they’ll reexamine their lives because of your intrusion. Cobb takes the curious Bill under his wing and together they burglarize homes. In true Hitchcock-like fashion things take a turn for the worse.

Following is a taut neo-noir thriller. Being shot in black and white help emphasize it’s film noir feel. What separates Following from other similar films is in it’s use of non-linear editing. Being out of sequence greatly enhance the mystery behind the three enigmatic main characters Bill, Cobb and the unnamed femme fatale blond (this is a film noir after all). The non-linear narrative here is a bit more straightforward than Nolan’s next feature Memento but it’s still more complicated than the run of the mill thriller. It offers short glimpses into the chronological future of the film without seeming too confusing. For example in one scene a clean cut Bill is shown with a black eye gazing at passerby’s on the street. No explanation is given for his drastically different appearance nor his bruised eye but by the end of the harrowing tale everything makes sense. Like Memento, Nolan crafts a puzzle of a film and at it’s conclusion you immediately want to rewatch it. The movie wraps up quite nicely except the big payoff is a minor letdown compared to its expert buildup.

Nolan’s writing is in top form here. Cobb steals the show with his witty dialogue and slick demeanor. The dialogue between the characters feels fresh and the motives are clear and concise. Nolan’s directing is even better than his writing. Nolan handles the camera like an expert even though it’s his first major picture. The shots are all chosen with precision and the overall cinematography is great. Being in black and white certainly didn’t hurt the presentation of the movie.

Following, with its non-linear format is an entertaining take on the neo-noir genre. Certain aspects of it are later refined and perfected in Memento but standing on its own enjoyable piece of cinema.

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