So Christopher Nolan existed before Memento. He existed before The Prestige. He even existed before his blockbuster Batman movies. Before watching Following, I had it in my head it would be, like Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, a taught film that would foreshadow the brilliance to come. Boyle had Shallow Grave and then Trainspotting, an absolutely fucking awesome movie precluded by a pretty rad one. Nolan had Memento, a terrifically excellent movie precluded by this, an experiment in shruggery. That’s literally what I did after watching it: shrug. It’s a film that follows the noir twist thing all the way down the line. Everything is not as it seems. The love interest is fishy, the friend is dubious, and the mark is a mark. There are ubiquitous bad dudes who seem to have connections to organized crime, wolves in sheep’s clothing and femme fatales. It’s all been done before–and done better.
I could care less about our main character, who seemed not sympathetically pathetic, but just pathetic. He’s an out of work writer who learns from some weird old magi that the best way to learn about people (presumably to help the book he’s trying to write) is to follow and observe them. And then one day he follows the wrong guy, who eventually involves him in robbery and general petty crime. And then the chick enters, and anyone who has ever seen this type of movie (including me, who took a specific film noir class in college) can see what’s happening from a million miles away (except our dupe, of course). The thing is, even if you don’t catch on, the writer gives it away a la Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
It’s certainly not a film without merit, but is too paint by numbers to stick in your head beyond an initial viewing. There is a funny scene where we see our protagonist leaving an apartment with a big Batman symbol on the door. The camera seems to almost linger on it as if Nolan had some inkling that one day 10 years later he would be the auteur of the series that broke box office records. So this will live as a great director’s first swing at film glory, but it’s a bloop single at best.