SXSW 2012: Low Budget Sci-Fi Shines Again in Nir Paniry's 'Extracted'
by Jeremy Kirk
March 13, 2012
Nir Paniry's Extracted, playing at SXSW, is a classic case on how indie science fiction works. Focusing more on narrative and character than blockbuster explosions or motion captured creatures, Paniry wraps his story tightly around its central premise and leaves little fat around the meat. Extracted moves with a purpose, setting up the characters and conflict quickly so that there's plenty of room for the second and third acts to breath. The non-linear structure combined with the vast amount of time within which the story takes place create a scope that no amount of computer generated, alien landscapes could achieve.
To give you an idea of what it's about: A scientist invents a way to look into someone's memories, to find those hidden moments we keep locked in our brains and travel through them, experience them first-hand along with the subject. The inventor of the project finds himself in an uncomfortable predicament when authorities set him to the task of discovering whether or not a drug addict has killed his girlfriend. The man goes into the drug addict's mind. Something goes wrong, and he becomes trapped there. For more than four years, the scientist watches the addicts memories, sees the events that shaped this man into the prisoner he is today, all the while searching for a way out.
It's appropriate that the film is structured like memories, only glimpses of someone's past that rarely have meaning in of themselves. You need context, and Paniry, working in a film that doesn't even reach 90 minutes, allows that context to bleed in throughout. The real moment of acceleration comes when the scientist discovers the addict may be able to see him. That moment comes when you least expect it, and Paniry's handling of it is exceptionally subtle.
Observing all this context, trying to piece the life of this man together, is the scientist, Tom, and Extracted wouldn't have worked nearly as well were it not for actor Sasha Roiz. As Tom, Roiz is in nearly every scene of the film, and much of the emotional conflict stems from his reactions. Solid in every expression and with a soothing voice that makes you want to listen to his pitch time and time again, Roiz builds the character every bit as much as Paniry's writing. Tom is a likable character. He needs to be for the story of a man trying to get back to his family. Roiz never falters, and, when things inevitably don't go as planned, your investment in the character and his goal couldn't be stronger.
You're invested, because Nir Paniry's focus couldn't be stronger, either. Extracted builds to its strong conclusion with trivial problematic areas coming up here and there. The third act dips its toe into the straight-forward thriller pool a little too much, and the water's too cold to really enjoy. It never becomes too distracted, though, from the main story, the driving force that keeps our interest and doesn't let it go. It's all about Roiz and Paniry creating this internal world, the random access memory the film's protagonist must navigate, and the conviction that protagonist grabs hold of in order to escape. Extracted is about conditioning of all kinds as well as addiction, the memories we shape for ourselves and the way it's never quite the way it really happened. Memory isn't a picture. There's nothing in the world quite like memory, and, sometimes, it's not a place one should journey.
Jeremy's SXSW Rating: 8.5 out of 10