A twentysomething amnesiac (Tom Sturridge) uses a compensation payout to hire a fixer (Arsher Ali) to stage-manage meticulous reconstructions that might help him make sense of the fleeting memories that have troubled him since coming out of a coma following a bizarre accident in Central London.
Having explored the (un)reliability of memory, the reconstruction of events and the structure of imagery in thought-provoking shorts like 5,000 Feet Is the Best (2011), Berlin-based Israeli video artist Omer Fast seems the ideal candidate to adapt Tom McCarthy's 2005 cult novel about an amnesiac's obsessive bid to make sense of the fragmented memories tormenting him. He takes the odd liberty with the text, but so successfully enters the damaged mind of his increasingly resistible protagonist that it's easy to overlook the odd dramatic dead-end and stylistic miscalculation.
It's easy to overlook the odd dramatic dead-end and stylistic miscalculation.
First seen wheeling a suitcase while trying to hail a cab on a busy London street, Tom Sturridge's anti-hero decides to use his £8.5 million compensation payment to reclaim some control over his shattered life. Lawyer buddy Ed Speleers and his American banker wife Cush Jumbo slot somewhere into the bigger picture, but Sturridge is more concerned with tantalisingly elusive recollections from a rundown rooming house and a Holborn bank.
Seemingly able to make anything happen without arousing the suspicion of two investaging cops, fixer Arsher Ali panders to every whim. But the more monomaniacal Sturridge becomes, the more difficult Fast finds it to retain audience empathy and, consequently, this slow-burning psychological thriller runs the risk of becoming a patience-testing exercise in dramatic manipulation and calculating style.
The influence of Stanley Kubrick and Charlie Kaufman is readily evident, but this imposes degrees of chilly detachment and self-reflexive smugness that sometimes prove as alienating as the fussily disorientating camerawork and editing and the seething electronic score. This is confident conceptual cinema, with Adrian Smith's production design being ingeniously effective in the tenement and heist sequences. Yet, there are longueurs and self-indulgences, and often too much suspension of disbelief is required.
A notable debut by an undoubted talent. But, despite the premise's intrigue, this never quite engrosses as it should.