Review by Walid Habboub

December 27, 2001

In an attempt to capitalize on the tremendous success of the surprise indie hit, Memento, Columbia/Tri-Star has released Following, the directorial debut of writer/director Christopher Nolan. Even if the cover of the DVD didn't scream the fact that the two films share the same creative force behind them, a viewing of the film makes that fact quite clear. While the two films share many similarities, Following does not have the same emotional pull as Memento. What it does possess, however, is a much more superior DVD and one worthy of any collection.

Following was shot in black and white, which is an excellent compliment to the tone of the movie and the laid-back pace and atmosphere that are maintained in the quick 70 minutes it takes to tell the story. The chronology of the scenes of the film lends itself quite well to the story and is extremely effective in maintaining suspense and peaking a viewer's interest. It is like a tale told by a seasoned and veteran storyteller who knows exactly when to move forward and back within the story to provide just the right details.

The story itself is that of "Bill", or as he is named in the credits "The Young Man", who is played by Jeremy Theobold, a new and obviously talented actor. Bill is an aspiring writer who comes up with a unique method of finding inspiration for his writing; following people randomly and shadowing their lives. As he tells his tale, we see Bill break one of his rules for following and fall into a complex plan of double crosses and greed.

The story really should not be discussed any further due to the intricacies of the details involved and the fact that if the wrong detail is revealed, the story falls apart for anyone seeing the film for the first time. It is enough to say that the strength of the film lies in how it is made and how it is put together. The script itself is solid and lacks no realism or any noir grit. Where the film ultimately fails is in the overall plot, which takes the convoluted double-cross storyline to a highly unbelievable extreme. This storyline is quite unbelievable and the ingenuity and intricacy of the plan involved is so finely detailed that it could only have taken place in a movie.

The extras on the DVD are excellent. In addition to some truly interesting and insightful commentary by Christopher Nolan, the disc has two unique and quite interesting features. The first is a secondary angle feature that allows you to view the shooting script as the movie's audio plays. Substituting the regular visuals with the shooting script is a great insight into how much a movie changes between the written phase and the filming phase. Making it even more intriguing is the ability to cut in and out of the script pages at the touch of a button. The mixture of the script and the director commentary make for a very fascinating experience, almost like being there in a room with the director as he plans out the final cut of the film. The downside of this feature (and one that may only be caused by certain players) is that the second angle feature warning pops up at the beginning of every chapter; certainly a distraction from the film itself.

The other wonderful feature is the ability to view the movie in chronological order. The feature itself is a wonderful idea and a great inclusion but ultimately presents an unsatisfying film. When told in chronological order, Following becomes a tepid tale that lacks any real suspense. The tone becomes boring as the story is unraveled in proper sequential order and all the wit and intrigue of the narrative virtually disappear. Of course, this lowered opinion of the film could be due to the fact that the chronological correct viewing was a second viewing and that will undoubtedly taint the experience and differ from a first time viewing. The feature is still a very nice addition to a very good DVD.

The overall disc is excellent, undoubtedly helped by the short running time of the film. The transfer quality in terms of sound and picture is superb and the features make this DVD a must-have (particularly for those who enjoyed Memento) even if the film itself is not perfect. The style of Following in terms of tone and structure as well as the music and narrative are very indicative of Memento though it doesn't have the emotional pull that the more recent film does. Nevertheless, the story, while being quite unbelievable is cool enough and the script is tight enough that they compliment the beautiful and intriguing style to the point that the film itself is not a disappointment. The quality of the DVD and its features make Following an excellent addition to any collection.



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