The Incident (2014)
Written & Directed by Isaac Ezban
Two brothers have been caught red-handed committing an undescribed crime. They are ambushed by a police officer who directs them down the stairwell of their apartment building to his car. However, on the way, a loud boom sounds from somewhere outside, and suddenly they find themselves caught in a looping stairwell without end or beginning. A family sets out to drop off the kids with their father while mom and stepdad are headed to the beach. On the road, they hear a loud boom and then find themselves on an infinitely looping stretch of highway. What is happening? Why are these people trapped?
It is literally impossible to discuss this film without spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens, turn back now. The film is on Netflix, come back after you have watched it.
The first half of this film is intriguing but not anything beyond a clever hook. In the second half, things begin to get incredibly strange and bleak. And it’s in the second half that the film won me over. We return to the stairwell we find 35 years have passed. The survivors have made it on a vending machine that replenishes every 24 hours but have aged. The film goes from a simple Twilight Zone style short story into something much more abstracted and surreal. Then the music kicks in and I am suddenly reminded of the television series Lost. I mean, the music is so close I think ABC could file a copyright lawsuit. The concept behind what is happening in the film also feels straight out of the later seasons of Lost when the plot got immersed in time travel storylines.
This idea of multiple time looping storylines is not a new invention. I was reminded of another Spanish-language film, Timecrimes by Nacho Vigalondo. Timecrimes was a film that reveled in the insanity it was creating with timelines looping back on themselves. Ezban does get a little over the top, particularly with his actors. There is a very telenovela style of delivery, with music amping up the sense of menace and intrigue. Ezban has some clever visual conceits, a hamster on a wheel in its own neverending loop reminds the characters of their fate.
Because characters begin to amp up or reach emotional heights so quickly in their stories, it becomes hard to maintain that fervor. Instead, the movie becomes very mechanical, and we find ourselves more caught up in anticipating a significant reveal rather than getting caught up in the story of these people. Ezban is incredibly excited about the ideas he is presenting but might need to focus on a little more and learn how to layer character beats within his high concept timepiece. He is not afraid to include his influences (Philip K. Dick), and that does help in understanding where he is coming from. Overall, this is a fun toy with a lot of promise, but still rough around the edges.