The I Inside (2004)

i_inside_ver2Granted, I’ve never been much of a fan of Ryan Phillipe and his movies, I was very skeptical on whether or not I’d enjoy this. Based on the play by Michael Cooney, and directed by Roland Suso Richter, “The I Inside” was created around the same time as “Butterfly Effect”, but then it was held back, and then dumped on cable television premiering on a channel not a lot of people have. If you’ve seen this movie yet, you’ll notice it’s not like a lot of cable movies. Great cast of great actors and an above par production quality. So why was this treated so badly upon its release?

That’s yet to be explained, but “The I Inside” surely deserved to be released better than “The Butterfly Effect” which didn’t really deserve the attention is received. There’s not much I can say about the story without giving away the ending or the details leading to the ending, but the basic gist of it is Simon Cable has awoken from a coma, and he starts having horrible nightmares and when confronted by a mysterious man in a medical room, now thinks someone is trying to kill him, but what did he do to make someone want to murder him? And why does he keep having horrible nightmares? I’m unsure as to what the playwright Michael Cooney originally intended for the play, but it’s clear by the way director Richter composes the movie and concept that he’s drawn upon other films.

It’s clear this is a film based mostly on influences rather than trying to tell its story, because afterwards you can’t help feel the director has composed himself a mixture of “Donnie Darko”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, and follows the same type of story arc as “Memento” did with its method of switching back and forth, and back and forth through different time periods and events that made or broke the character, and though it’s not as confusing, it managed to become very scattered in its development. Richter manages to succeed in creating a very pleasantly chaotic environment for the movie-goer in which the predictable is very unpredictable, and what better setting for a movie such as this, as a hospital? The director makes the audience feel as if we’re never sure what to trust, and that we’re stuck in a basically endless claustrophobic nightmare of complications and horrifying events that never make a lot of sense up until the climax.

For a Direct to Video film, it’s rather superior with competent directing, and a very good cast of actors like Stephen Rea whose great here as the doctor who is attempting to help Simon through his horror, Sarah Polley, who doesn’t have a huge role but is nonetheless very effective, and Ryan Phillipe, who is very good here. I bought him as a man facing this horror and his emotions are raw here. I bought everything that was happening to him, and many scenes demonstrate the potential for emotional acting including one good scene where he breaks down emotionally. He’s just as confused as we are, and we want to learn what in god’s name is going on as he does. The pay off is ultimately surprising, and we’re given a question mark that we can’t help but like a lot.

If you’re wondering what the title means, it’s really just a clue as to what the surprise ending comes to in the odd climax. There are a bunch of clues throughout the entire story as to what all of the events in the film are leading to, if anything, and I’ll tell you, not only was it shockingly under-whelming, but if you’ve seen a bunch of movies following this certain genre and story, you will not be surprised at all at what develops and why it’s approached as such a big deal. I felt, the whole time watching, that this would be such a better story if it were a mere forty minutes within the folds of an anthology movie, but as a standalone feature film, it just never really develops into anything worth purchasing. While it is pretty superior for a film dumped on cable television, it never becomes something that overwhelms because a lot of it is nothing original that we haven’t already seen in many other films. All of it seems so disjointed at time with a story is not chaotic enough for the environment the director is trying to set.

It could have easily set up the whole “Vanilla Sky” surrealism mixed with the “Mulholland Drive” confusion, but it’s so lightweight and too similar to the giant turkey “The Butterfly Effect” and the very effective “Memento”. There’s not much depth or dimension to any of the characters to truly help us sympathize with them nor do we ever really want to see what’s going to happen to them, all of it is basically so broad both in the situations leading up to the climax, and the characters who are very fuzzy in their backgrounds. We never really learn a lot about the main character Simon, nor do we really get an inner glimpse into his personality that we can feel enough for what he’s going through. His situation is all too complex for such a cast of broadly sketched characters as are presented in the movie, including the supporting characters like Clair who we understand committed an affair with Simon, but we never learn why, we understand the brother is upset, but what led to the affair? Was Simon really just a prick as a human being, or was it something else that motivated him to have an affair with his brother’s wife?

It’s this type of disjointed storytelling that goes hand in hand with lack of real characterization that made this movie hard to understand, and made the situation hard to fathom. How can we feel we’ve been brought into an utterly inescapable nightmare if we don’t know a lot about the characters? Plus, there are things that never really add up regarding the timeline of the flashbacks, but it’s hard to gripe about that without having to give away the story and ending for you. Which I won’t do. There’s not really much of a cast to brag about but people like Robert Sean Leonard and Piper Perabo are basically wasted to smaller roles, and Stephen Rea doesn’t get to flex his acting out much. Approach “The I Inside” with expectancy because while you will not see your average direct to video movie, you won’t see anything you haven’t seen before. So be cautious. Despite very disjointed story telling, and characters that we never really get to feel for, this is nonetheless a good movie that deserved better treatment than it received. Competent directing, great acting, and a surprise ending make this a very entertaining watch.