The I Inside (2003) / Mystery-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for language and violence
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Piper Perabo, Stephen Rea, Sarah Polley, Robert Sean Leonard, Stephen Lang, Peter Egan, Stephen Graham, Rakie Ayola
Director: Roland Suso Richter
Screenplay: Michael Cooney, Timothy Scott Bogart
Review published February 13, 2005
Ryan Phillippe (Igby Goes Down, Antitrust) plays wealthy heir Simon Cable (an homage to the time-traveling character in the X-Men comics, perhaps?), who wakes up in a hospital bed to find that he can barely remember a thing. Somehow, it's the year 2002, but the last thing he still remembers happened way back in the year 2000. His current wife (Perabo, Slap Her...She's French) is someone he doesn't even recognize, his brother (Robert Sean Leonard, The Last Days of Disco) has passed away, and he begins seeing a mysterious woman (Sarah Polley, My Life Without Me) around the hospital that no one else seems to really notice. While undergoing tests, Simon supposedly wakes up in the year 2000 again, after suffering a car accident which has landed him in the same exact hospital, except no one seems to know what he's talking about. Is Simon able to shift his way through time, or is this a dark and elaborate trick someone is playing on him?
No, this isn't an adaptation of the book of the same name by Alan Dean Foster, but rather, one of a proposed stage play called "Point of Death", by co-screenwriter Michael Cooney. It's a mind-bending mystery, which intrigues with its intricate plotting, but ultimately, the film isn't much of anything but a rote exercise in putting pieces of its puzzle together.
The I Inside falls in the category of movies where something is definitely askew, and you must exercise your brain in trying to figure out just what's going on and why very little makes sense, until it is revealed in the end, and you must backtrack to all of the events in your mind to try to put things together. Sometimes these movies can be enriching, like Donnie Darko, Memento, Abre Los Ojos, and Jacob's Ladder, that challenge the mind, while also entertaining with a decent story. Then there are the films like The Butterfly Effect, Paycheck and Shattered Image that provide similar challenges, but the movies themselves just doesn't seem as worthwhile to pour much effort into, mostly because they don't surround the puzzle with much of a worthwhile story at all -- once you figure out what's the what, they are just not that compelling anymore. The I Inside fits more into this other category.
That's not to say that it is a bad film, as it does feature a quality cast, with a solid lead performance by Ryan Phillippe, and a well-done supporting part for Stephen Rea (The End of the Affair, In Dreams). It's also very stylishly presented by German director Roland Suso Richter, who works here in his first English-language production, The budget is scant, but for a low-grade production, it doesn't feel like there is any skimping involved. Writer Michael Cooney continues to make psychological thrillers to challenge the mind, but this one just falls short from the modest thrills that were Identity and Murder in Mind, mostly because it doesn't really give you any depth of feeling or conversations flow naturally.
The I Inside will have its audience, primarily composed of people who love twisty mind-f*cks that keep you trying to figure it all out throughout. It is intelligent, with an attractive and competent cast, plus a unique look that works in its favor. However, if you aren't really into the niche genre of twisty manipulations, this may prove a very tedious watch, as almost all humanity has been sucked out of the equation, leaving only the mechanics of the plot, and a nifty surprise ending that will make it or break it for most viewers. You may need to pop a few aspirin when it's over.
©2005 Vince Leo