A would-be writer stalks people on the street and subsequently gets involved with a pretentious burglar
Made for what appears to be loose change in and around the streets of London, Nolan's first feature is by no means without promise, even though the film tries to run before it can walk with regard to its ambitious, noir-like narrative, a tortuous, convoluted melange of flashbacks and fast-forwards that come on like Nic Roeg to the power of eight.
Nevertheless, the central conceit is compellingly mapped, as wannabe writer Bill (Theobald) takes to 'shadowing' strangers he encounters in the streets for no other reason than his own voyeuristic curiosity. One of them is Cobb (Haw), a handsome, urbane and unnervingly cruel burglar who breaks into flats in order to analyse the owners' personal lives and play mischievous mind games with their property: "You take it away, and show them what they had" muses Cobb, like some sociopathic first-year philosophy student let loose at a freshers' fair. Bill is enlisted as his understudy, but it's only when he hooks up with the girlfriend (Russell) of a gangster that the gullible hero stops being a fish out of water and becomes a lamb to the slaughter in a deadly game of cross and double cross.
Haw, to give him his due, displays a charismatic persona and does a nice line in clipped vowel villainy, but Theobald is faced with an uphill struggle in an attempt to animate or win sympathy for his colourless character. With a tighter storyline and a looser budget, who knows what Christopher Nolan might have been able to achieve? On the evidence of this tyronic effort, one feels he has earned the right to both.
This early Nolan is a curio held against what followed but it's still an edgy little noir for that.