Monday, March 23, 2015

The Incident (recently screened at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival)

[THE INCIDENT recently screened at the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Two brothers are busted by police officer in their apartment. While trying to flee through the apartment building’s stairway, one of the brothers is shot in the leg. After a tourniquet is tied around the wound, the officer tries to escort the two out of the building and down to the police station. Only problem is, none of the doors out of the stairwell can be opened and the elevator doesn't work. More alarming, the stairwell itself seems to be some kind of mobius strip: descend all the way to the first floor and it keeps going, but loops back to the top floor. Fortunately there's a perpetually full vending machine of snacks and water for sustenance, but that won't help the wounded brother if he doesn't get to a hospital soon.

Elsewhere, a family is going on holiday. The little girl is asthmatic and suffers from allergies. While at a gas station, her step-father unwittingly gives her a drink that causes an allergic reaction. The mother panics and starts yelling at him, and he drops the girl's inhaler, which breaks. The girl's brother was supposed to have picked up her backup inhaler, but forgot in the confusion of leaving. In fear for her daughter's life, mom insists they drive back home. Easier said than done, though, as the road keeps taking them back to where they've already been. There's plenty of food and drink at the gas station, but nothing that can help the little girl.

These two seemingly unconnected though similar storylines make up THE INCIDENT, the debut feature of Mexican writer/director Isaac Ezban. On first glance, it might seem like the premise for a “Twilight Zone” episode, but the paperback novel by Phillip K. Dick one of the characters has in his bag is a better clue to the film's concerns. Like Dick, Ezban is interested in the nature of reality, and how what seems like the real world may in fact be nothing more than an illusion designed to hide the truth.

As a director, Ezban does an excellent job of keeping his audience invested and wondering what the hell is going on right up to the end. It's the ending, however, that will likely prove problematic for some. It's not that Ezban doesn't play fair, or that his resolution is too vague or confusing. It's just that it feels a bit anticlimactic. Maybe others minds will be more blown than mine was, but I just felt like, “that's it?” Overall, though, I still liked the movie, and was even more impressed by how much Ezban did with so little. It's certainly worth a look for fans of cerebral sci-fi like PRIMER or PI. 3 out of 4 stars.

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