SXSW 2012 Review: ‘Extracted’ Is Ambitious Independent Sci-Fi That Just Doesn’t Take Hold

By  · Published on March 15th, 2012

In which a review begs to open with a deep-seeming quote about memory – its price, its collapse, its malleability, its importance, something about Mark Twain – and fails utterly. Director and co-writer Nir Paniry attempts something similar with his Extracted. The film follows Sasha Roiz as Tom, an inventor who has crafted a machine that is able to plug into a person’s memory and allow them to experience it as if it was currently happening, all while processing those memories into video capture. Unsurprisingly enough, Tom’s invention doesn’t quite work as planned, and he’s plunged into the depths of another person’s memory – except the memories he’s found are bad ones, and he’s trapped inside of them.

Though Tom creates his machine with the hope of helping people work through their past issues, when his apparent manager comes to him with an interested buyer who plans on using it for something very different, Tom buckles. Turns out, a local corrections bigwig sees potential in the project that doesn’t quite fit Tom’s altruistic aims – he wants to plug perps into it to discover if their memories prove them guilty (or innocent, though he seems fairly convinced that everyone is guilty). Swayed by the promise of a big pay-out should the corrections department adopt his invention as part of their standard interrogation procedures, Tom sets up a trial demonstration, during which he gets plugged into the memories of accused murderer Anthony (Dominic Bogart).Of course, something goes wrong as his assistant attempts to pull Tom out of Anthony’s memory, and he becomes trapped within his own system, his body in a vegetative state on the “outside,” his mind alive and lurking in Anthony’s memory. While the prospect of such imprisonment should be terrifying, Roiz and Pinary never quite pump up the terror, even though Tom’s situation has stakes to spare (when he gets sucked into Anthony’s mind, he has a pregnant wife at home). The revelation of just what went wrong in the experiment is also unable to give the whole endeavor weight – it’s a bit silly.

Extracted principally focuses on Tom’s attempts to pull himself out of his prison, eventually turning into a twisted take on a buddy flick. Tom accidentally discovers a potential way out, but one that will require a tremendous amount of cooperation from no less than Anthony himself. Pinary’s reasoning behind Tom and Anthony’s interactions is sufficiently clever, but while it works to push forward the film’s narrative and aims, it also allows more performance from Bogart, who is impressive in his role to the point of completely outshining lead Roiz. The film’s somewhat sloggy second half is brightened up considerably by his solid work, even if most of that work is takes place in prisons, metaphorical and literal.

The film will likely draw comparisons to similar fare like The Cell and Inception, two films that were specifically named in a post-screening Q&A, but there’s a lot of territory to cover when it comes to something as vast as the human mind. Pinary has made an ambitious film from a wonderful seed of an idea, but it’s never quite able to take hold of its audience in a way conducive to leaving any kind of lasting cinematic memory.

The Upside: A solid science-fiction idea; good-looking despite its indie budget; great supporting performance by Bogart.

The Downside: The film’s execution isn’t nearly as crisp and clear as such a story requires; weak and unengaging performance by lead Roiz; dragging middle section.

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