Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Killer Inside Me (2010) – Review

The Killer Inside Me is a dark if not frightening film delving into the mind of a disturbed psychotic killer. Throughout the film seems a bit disjointed. The viewer is not always sure of the motivation or the passage of time, or even what is real – but it works. Director Michael Winterbottom structures the film through the mind of his protagonist and being that he is demented and oblivious to wrong-doing the structure is at times hard to follow or even unreliable. Can the audience really trust anything that they are shown? Winterbottom (and protagonist Lou Ford) do not pull any punches as the story is told – it is quite unnerving and specifically graphically violent. Much like American Psycho, the mask of sanity erodes as the story unfolds – the more time the audience spends with Ford, the more uneasy they become. The film emits tension, but subtly – the viewer feels alarmed and uncomfortable with the character they are given to follow, but they cannot place the reason – and then like a striking blow Winterbottom exploits the tension to its emotional peak (and at this point alienating some audience members). However, what makes this film particularly interesting, and Winterbottom’s work astounding, is despite the character being very unlikable and the brash violence, there are still moments in which the audience is behind the character – much in the same way as with the film Downfall. The viewer recognizes the evil in the character yet that same character being the narrative storyteller captivates the audience, and done correctly can even garner support from the audience – and Winterbottom achieves that, but still keeps the character distant as well. Ford is always on guard even from himself. Ford tells the story in a matter-of-fact way, but he does not divulge his emotions, they are there for the viewer to see gradually, just underneath. The film works best as a character study – everything around Ford is just scenery, a nuisance that he sees himself above. The film is impressive in its duality of viewer emotion (we hate Ford utterly from a moral stand, but yet underneath we root for him to overcome the obstacles closing in around him). The two female characters in the film are portrayed to be strong, and yet they both give in to Ford’s violence, not running from it but embracing it with compassion (much like the audience). The film, it would seem, would not play well for a feminist audience, but Winterbottom seems to be using his female characters as a plant in the audience’s mind – to see if he can bring them over to the dark side, and here like Ford’s control over the women, he succeeds in many cases. With The Killer Inside Me Witnerbottom has created both an interesting character study of a psychopath, but an even more penetrating look at the emotional morality and narrative influence on a passive audience. On the technical side of the film: Winterbottom is able to craft a film that is primarily interested in the emotional state of the audience. He is less concerned with a tight narrative that is easy to follow. This is a big risk, but Winterbottom succeeds in engaging the audience with characters rather than plot. The supporting characters are not really developed and are sometimes distracting, but overall Winterbottom and screenwriter John Curran (a fine filmmaker in his own right) are able to capture the tone and performances they need for the film to work. Casey Affleck is calm with sinister misdeeds waiting to erupt behind his eyes (the performance reminds me a lot of his work in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). Jessica Alba is shot beautifully in the film and plays the role in such a sweet way that the contrast of violence to her allure is quite powerful and jolting. Kate Hudson is also good, in maybe the most unforgiving of all the characters. As with Alba, Hudson portrays her character to be likable, yet dumbfounding at times, that the juxtaposition of emotion is dynamic. Cinematographer Marcel Zyskind (a frequent Winterbottom collaborator) shoots the film to perfectly capture the core emotion of each scene. Melissa Parmenter’s score is subtle and supports the emotional weight – but it is the lack of score at key moments that provides more of an impact. The minimalist production design by Mark Tildesley helps focus the attention solely on the characters. The film is not for everyone, as much of it is visually intense – but Witnerbottom and cast and crew have made an unhinging film in which the audience partakes in the brutality and culpability. 7/10

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