Mar 27, 2010

INK (Written & Dir. Jamin Winans. 2009.)

Good people do good things and bad people do bad things, or more often than not bad people get someone else to do it for them.   Ink is such a person, or thing, sent on an errand by a higher power to kidnap an eight year old girl as she sleeps seemingly safe in her bed.  And despite the combined efforts from a number of strangers, he succeeds in snatching little Emma.  His motivations for this act are revealed to us as the story unfolds.  However, it’s not as straightforward as that.  The part of Emma that is stolen is in the dream world, where Ink resides, while her physical self remains in the real world in a comatose state.  If the two parts of Emma are not reunited within a given time, disaster will befall her.  What follows is the journey undertaken by the kidnapper, the kidnapped, and those trying to save her, both in the dream world and concurrently in the real world.  And it’s (mostly) a joy to watch.

Ink is a fantasy movie that dares to do things a little different from the norm, it dares to fail.  It’s a self-financed venture, the brainchild of primarily two individuals, Jamin Winans and Kiowa Winans.  Jamin wrote, directed, edited, and composed the original soundtrack for the film, and Kiowa was responsible for the Art Direction, Costume Design and Sound Design.  They were also the executive producers, and subsequent distributers.  Ink is their baby.

The direction is stylised, a little overly stylised at times and at others it seems almost amateurish.  More than once it reminded me of a British Public Information film, about the dangers of excessive drinking or about taking care while driving.  The editing is often clumsy, bordering on irritating; especially the fight scenes where it’s clear Jamin has compensated for a lack of experience in these matters by moving the camera too close to his subject to keep the viewer’s attention away from the poor choreography.  While the fighting is essential to the story, it is undoubtedly its weakest aspect.  Not what you want on your CV.  However, what the film lacks in finesse it makes up for in ideas.  It is literally bursting at the seams with plot, both attended to and left unexplored; and quite often the plot is implied as opposed to being revealed in the conventional manner.  In order to get the most from Ink you have to engage on a conscious level with it.  The best cinema uses this as a device.  Films that wash over you are often instantly forgettable affairs.

At times it reminds of a Neil Gaiman fairytale, putting me instantly in mind of Gaiman’s own failed Neverwhere project (1996 BBC series, may be unfamiliar to non-UK audiences) and the occasional bronzed lighting effects remind of Gaiman’s long time collaborator, Dave McKean (Mirrormask.  2005).  The sound is competent, often inspired.  When the protectors appear they are accompanied by an audible “click/pop” sound, like a light bulb blowing out, crossed with the sound the hinge of a Zippo lighter makes.  It sounds weird, but it works.

The soundtrack, being conceived by Jamis, as you would expect fits the scenes perfectly and at times it raised my sympathies so much that my heart took up a firm residence in my throat.  Especially towards the end, it integrates beautifully heightening the emotional impact of the narrative.

Whether the viewer realises it or not, cinema is a medium of thirds; from the pre/production/post to the lighting (3 point lighting) to the very frame itself (rule of thirds), this is the case.  Ink, the film not the character, is split into a three-way fight with itself.  Initially intriguing, it stumbles into mediocrity a third of the way in, leaving it’s actors to carry the story; a task for which they are not wholly capable.  At times it seems as if they are fresh out of acting school.  As mentioned already the action scenes are clumsy, and it is this middle section of the film that all my criticisms are directed.  Sadly, this is also the point many people will decide to hit the stop button.

Persevere, and the final third of the film is a complete turnaround.  It not only redeems its existence, it excels in all the right ways.  The editing is tighter, the direction is inspired, and even the fighting seems more accomplished.   The threads of story that have been dangled before us begin to weave and knit together beautifully.  The scenes with Emma and her protector are fantastic.  Along the way Ink has tasks of his own that he must complete in order to deliver his cargo.  The Pathfinder, a stranger employed to help track the girl, ceases to be an annoying fool with black tape over his eyes and takes on a whole new relevance and essential role.  The beat of life becomes the beat of the film, and the urgency which was previously lacking reaches its potential.  The final third of the film is the finest of its kind I have seen this year.  Like well crafted music it reaches a crescendo right before the final act, leaving you grinning like the Cheshire Cat with a fish the size of a bus.

Wikipedia tells us (don’t read the Wiki article before watching the film, it has major spoilers) that no major studio picked up the film for neither theatrical nor home distribution; this doesn’t surprise me, they don’t have such insight and many of them need a diagram to find their own ass.  Double Edge Films, Jamin Winans and Kiowa Winans’ own company, pitched the movie directly to independent cinemas and to the DVD, Blu-ray and online distribution markets themselves. After the release it became the most downloaded movie in file sharing torrent history, 400,000 times in a single week, and this helped expose the film to a large audience, leading to higher DVD and Blu-ray sales in return. It’s a fairytale success story.  The filmmakers claimed to have "embraced the piracy" and are "happy Ink is getting unprecedented exposure."  More power to them.

All that remains is for me to tell you to seek it out and watch it right to the end before forming a lasting opinion.  And to give it a mark.  Without hesitation I give Ink...

***** out of 5

To purchase go to the Official Ink site HERE