So I think by this point everybody’s on board that Christopher Nolan is the bad-A of the times. The best of the best, the leader of the pack, a movie-lover’s dream. This is everybody’s man’s debut film. Following is probably the most similar to Memento of any of his other movies, but it is also completely different in its own right. It’s almost Hitchcock-esque. Not quite so trippy as Inception, but still as gripping. It’s a low-budget gem.
Following is, initially, about a man named Bill who follows people to pass the time. He’s a writer, but has no current job, and wants to learn about human nature from his followees. He had to set rules for himself though, so as not to become too obsessive or, IMO, perverted, and his most important rule of all was never to follow the same person twice. But why set rules unless you can break them, eh?
He follows a man named Cobb. (More than once). But this mysterious, handsome man in a dark suit knows that our guy’s up to something and confronts him. They talk, and share their stories. Turns out Cobb’s a serial burglar, and he invites our man to go on some jobs with him. These ain’t your run-of-the-mill-steal-the-jewelry-burglars, though. Cobb’s more interested in the personal items of their victims. “Everyone has a box.” He drinks their wine, rummages through photos, takes a few things here and there. His intention is that “you take it away, show them what they had.”
They become partners, and Cobb shows the young man what’s up. The young man starts some burglary projects of his own, changes his appearance, starts a relationship with a blonde femme-fatale. Things spin out of control soon enough however. Never follow someone twice, kids.
The chronology is similar to Memento. Awesome. It’s not as systematic as that, however (color real-time scenes, black & white backwards scenes, etc.) But it’s still out of order, and possibly even awesome-r in this modern film noir. Who’d-o’ thunk that this method of storytelling would be so freaking epic? I think it’s the best way to reveal the what’s up of a story. This remains true for Following. The big end wouldn’t be half as cool were it not for the messed up timeline. Hats off to you, Chris.
Its length (just over an hour) and detached feel are strengths as well. The only character credited with a name is Cobb. This also felt like something Hitchcock would do (and did). It’s very straightforward, and lacks strong emotion. You learn the facts about the characters, you learn about the victims. You can’t always feel what the young man is feeling, however. It’s hard to describe, because it’s a character story, or study rather, but it still has this edgy, detached feel.
The incomprehensible small budget of just $6,000 is put to perfect use in the gritty underbelly of London. Everything feels dirty, creepy, and mysterious. The excellent photography combined with the scenery contributes to the suspense and ambiance. The no-name cast is also excellent, Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, and Lucy Russell. It’s a surprise to me that they did nothing else, they’re quite good in this – especially Alex Haw as Cobb.. and he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!
If you’re just hopping on the Chris Nolan bandwagon, I’d check this one out. If you loved Memento, this is his father. Following is another excellent film that credits Nolan as good as any other mainstream effort of his. 9/10