Ryan Phillipe wakes up in hospital having been dead for two minutes. He remembers who he is and who his family are but, courtesy of a selective cinematic amnesia, has lost almost three years of his life. He quickly learns that he has been poisoned, is married to Piper Perabo and may be responsible for the death of his brother, Robert Sean Leonard. Or at least that would appear to be the case until he wakes up at the same hospital but in a different timeline and admitted for different reasons.
Though its titles may be somewhat unrevealing, The I Inside is a film with a number of thematic concerns and, more importantly, thematic predecessors. It blurring of realities recalls David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and the initial scenes of The Matrix, its use of memory as an overt plot device has been done before in Memento, whilst the idea that the protagonist may in some way be able to manipulate these memories/realities was the central premise of the minor but interesting Alan Sharp-scripted cable movie The Lathe of Heaven. It’s arguable that each of these films dealt with their individual themes to a far more successful degree than director Roland Suso Richter has done with The I Inside, yet what makes his film interesting is the way in which it never quite sides into either a purely science fiction or purely thriller territory. Certainly, it’s an undoubtedly generic work, with all the attendant revelations and big twists, but there’s a playful air to the way in which it strikes up a balance between the two.
In part this may be due to the film’s stage play origins, and in translating writers Michael Cooney (the original playwright) and Timothy Scott Bogart has decided against embellishing their source with unnecessary special effects sequences or lengthy chases down empty corridors. Instead they’ve kept to a largely dialogue-heavy script, one which, like K-PAX or Hombre mirando al sudeste, teases its audience with regards as to which direction it is going to take. Indeed, during its build-up, The I Inside acts as neither a full-blown thriller nor a straight-ahead piece of science fiction, but merely hints in either direction. Moreover, by never fully committing itself to either, the option has been left open to abandon one in favour of the other or vice versa, creating a tension which during these early stages at least sustains a certain level of interest.
However, Cooney and Bogart have also given The I Inside an urgency that means they never quite able to provide enough groundwork on which to build their premise. Too many developments take place too quickly whilst the generic flirtation doesn’t find a counterpart with regards to the plotting. Rather Phillipe, despite seemingly jumping through time and newfound memories, simply believes everything that is happening to him without ever questioning it. It’s a highly unconvincing device prompting the viewer to become almost entirely disengaged by the time of the big finale. It would appear that the makers simply presume of their audience that they will be immediately hooked without actually going through process of reeling them in. Moreover, owing to the need to get towards the final twist much of the exposition essentially comes in the final scenes meaning that the film as a whole would have to be fully reconsidered in order for these problems to be rectified. Indeed, The I Inside is one of those not so rare films which feels as though a huge chunk is missing and has the Weinstein brothers attached as producers yet I’m utterly convinced of their innocence in all this. As an exercise in genre, it’s a moderately interesting film nonetheless, though the curious would perhaps be better suited by a rental rather than a full-blown purchase.
The I Inside arrives on disc in impressive shape. The muted cinematography could easily cause problems given the abundance of greys and blacks, yet its recreated without a problem here. Moreover, the original 2.35:1 ratio has been preserved and presented anamorphically, and the print as a whole remains clean and free from damage. Similar things can be said of the soundtrack quality. Again it’s fairly low-key, but remains crisp and clear and ably recreates the filmmakers’ intentions.
The disc also houses a number of extras, although there’s nothing here of especial interest. The main pieces are the very brief interviews with Phillipe, Perabo and Richter. Of the three, the latter is perhaps the most interesting, especially as the two actors talk about the film with such sycophancy that they simply don’t convince (this is there best filmmaking experience ever, the best cast they’ve ever worked with, etc. etc.). The remaining pieces are largely self-explanatory: a theatrical trailer, a photo gallery of production stills and some production notes which can be downloaded as a PDF file by those with DVD-ROM capabilities. The disc also opens with a number of trailers for other Pathe/Fox releases (see sidebar).
Anthony Nield has reviewed the Region 2 release of The I Inside, an intriguing if unsatisfying blend of thriller and science fiction starring Ryan Phillipe.