Frisco Kid’s Review: Extracted (2012)
Here’s the concept behind director Nir Paniry’s 2012 indie science-fiction release, Extracted. What if a scientist invented a device that allowed people to visit their own memories? Not merely recalling them, but experiencing them as a third-party observer? Now, what if that tech were used to access other people’s memories? For what nefarious purposes could this technology be used?
Sounds similar to the concept behind Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010)? Superficially, yes. However, that story-line involves removing and planting memories in someone’s mind. Paniry’s film is about locating a particular memory and finding out the truth from it. The concept leads to a different type of plot in each film. Nolan’s is a spy thriller. Paniry’s is a crime drama.
Plot Synopsis for Extracted (adapted from IMDB and Wikipedia)
A scientist, Tom (Sasha Roiz), has invented a technology that allows people to enter virtually into their own memories. He hopes to be able to use this to help people deal with memories of traumatic life experiences. However, he needs funding to continue his work. His agent, Richard (Nick Jameson), finds a possible investor. Richard withholds the identity of the investor, who wants to use Tom’s research for a different purpose. He wants to enter the memories of other people.
Tom has ethical problems with this request. However, he and his wife, Abbey (Jenny Mollen), are running low on funds. He agrees reluctantly to meet the mysterious investor to demonstrate his technology. The investor turns out to be a state corrections official. He has brought along a prisoner, Anthony (Dominic Bogart), who has been convicted for murder. He wants Tom to test his technology on Anthony, who insists that he is innocent.
The test involves entering Anthony’s memories to see whether he killed his girlfriend, Adrienne (Augie Duke). Both were heroin addicts. Anthony warns Tom that his drug use has made his mind a dangerous place: “It’s a wild ride up there.” Tom goes ahead with the procedure anyway. Aided by his research assistant, Garrett (Brad Culver), he enters Anthony’s mind and locates the memory. It appears that Anthony did kill Adrienne. However, Garrett cannot break the mental connection between Tom and Anthony. Unable to be extracted from Anthony’s mind, Tom’s consciousness remains trapped there. His body lapses into a comatose state.
Years go by as Tom searches for a way out of Anthony’s mind. His body is in a hospital, where Abbey and the couple’s daughter visit him. Abbey has almost given up on getting Tom back, but still has some hope. Meanwhile, Anthony returns to jail. He continues to maintain his innocence. His father, Martino (Frank Ashmore), a retired gangster, does not believe him.
When Martino gives him a box of photographs, Anthony happens to recall a memory as Tom watches it. Inside the memory, Anthony stares in shock at Tom, something that Tom believes to be impossible. Convinced that this will allow him to communicate with Anthony, Tom haunts a commonly-recalled memory and waits for Anthony to stumble on him again. When they make contact, Tom explains his situation and asks for Anthony’s help. Anthony agrees and sets up a meeting with Abbey.
With Tom’s help, Anthony is able to convince Abbey to set up another experiment with the machine, though she must agree to give the technology to the Department of Corrections in order to get authorization. However, Anthony delays the experiment and demands another chance to prove his innocence. Although angry at Anthony’s betrayal, Tom is powerless to refuse. With Tom’s help, Anthony pieces together more details and remembers being attacked by a former accomplice, Eric (Rodney Eastman).
Encouraged by this breakthrough, Anthony escapes from custody and tracks down Eric, who reveals that Adrienne was exchanging sex for drugs from him. Eric denies that he did the murder. He suggests that Anthony killed her when she revealed her relationship with him to Anthony. Unwilling to accept this, Anthony attempts to kill him. Both are wounded. Worried that he is dying, Anthony abandons his revenge. He goes to Abbey’s home, where there is a prototype of Tom’s machine. With Tom’s help, Anthony is able to guide Abbey through the experiment and free Tom.
Anthony dies from his wounds, but Tom is finally reunited with his family. Haunted by merged memories, Tom makes contact with Martino. Martino reveals that he set up his son in the belief that jail would finally allow Anthony to clean up. Finally realizing that Anthony was innocent all along, Tom discovers the key, repressed parts of Anthony’s memory of the murder.
Unlike Inception, Extracted is a low-budget, indie film. Its budget was reportedly $100,000. Director Nir Paniry, who also wrote the screenplay, wanted to make a story-based science fiction film that did not rely on special effects to succeed. Even so, he had to rewrite the script during production in order to keep costs down.
The film was produced by New Artists Alliance. It premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2012. It was picked up by Phase 4 Films the same year for distribution via DVD and Video On Demand in the U.S. It had a limited run in theaters in the summer of 2013 before being released on DVD in September of the same year. This reviewer watched it on Netflix.
Pros: Paniry was able to do quite a lot with his small budget. Unable to rely on dazzling CGI effects (like those in Inception) to present the phenomena of the virtual world of the mind, he used set design and lighting to create convincing setups of scenes that take place inside Anthony’s mind. Although there are some well-done special effects, dialogue and interactions between characters drive the bulk of the action of these scenes. For example, Tom must interact with the software that runs his technology. This is done by having him converse with a disembodied voice (voice-over), not unlike Kirk’s dialogues with the Enterprise’s computer in the original “Star Trek” series.
Cons: The pace of the film’s action is somewhat slow at times in the second and third acts. This problem tends to decrease tension when it should be building. For this reason, I agree with Kate Erbland of Film School Rejects when she writes in her SXSW review that “Roiz and Pinary [sic] never quite pump up the terror.” However, I disagree with her statement that the reason for the malfunction of Tom’s technology is “silly”. On the contrary, it makes good sense in the context of the science of the world of the film’s story. Nevertheless, I concur with her that Roiz’ performance is somewhat weak, especially in comparison with Bogart’s.