Ink is to thrillers what The Orphanage is to scary movies. It is mature and so carefully told that the twists are sudden but entirely within context. Since I honestly can’t think of anyone who would dislike the film from the first frame, I’ll go ahead and say: start the film, finish it, repeat. I’d love for you to read the full review, but you can skip it for now if you like and just watch it.
During the wee hours in a suburban neighborhood, a group of people suddenly appears; they are dressed in daytime street clothes but are otherwise appropriate. They wander into the rooms of sleeping people and touch them; this causes a pleasant dream or affects one already underway. After this trope is set, a group of Terry Gilliam-like people pop in. They are dressed entirely in black and their “faces” are projected onto a glass pane attached to their heads that act like a small television. It takes no imagination to understand they bring troubling dreams.
While these events occur in general, 5-7 year-old Emma is asleep but guarded by a pleasant dream warrior-type. This vigil proves both necessary and short. A dark rag-dressed creature comes to grab Emma’s dream-self. Other dream warriors are summoned. A vicious fight follows but the ragged creature escapes with the girl. Emma’s body goes into a coma after her dream-self is kidnapped.
His name is Ink and his goal is to join what he calls the Assembly. To move from his current hideous and anxious state to one of lithe, dark beauty, he captures Emma whose sacrifice will permit him to become an Assembly member.
The pleasant warriors regroup to determine how to rescue Emma before she is sacrificed. They have very limited time to save her because Emma’s body slips deeper into the coma the closer Emma’s dream-self gets to where the Assembly meet.
The story as I explain it is simple enough; by itself it would probably make for a B or B- movie. What throws Ink to almost the highest grade is two-fold: the structure of the narrative and astounding acting.
Since the acting is the easiest aspect to cover, it comes first. The story focuses on Emma, played by Quinn Hunchar (this is her debut film). Ink was her movie to make or break. She did nothing wrong. I felt an abiding empathy for her and my emotional investment in what she brought to Emma was well worth it. I honestly think that she is a close enough parallel to Haley Joe Osment that if The Sixth Sense needed a ghost seeing girl, Ms. Hunchar could have filled the part and the movie would still have remained just as powerful. Chris Kelly plays her father, John. John is an investment banker whose abilities hinge on him being brutal, which he does well. But he has to have a more human quality. He is able to balance these states seamlessly; it appears entirely real. Ink (Maiz Lucero), spends most of his time behind a heavy hood and doesn’t say much, so his character’s range is more physical than not. Still, his spoken parts are on par with everyone else.
I’m giving Ink 5 stars because 4 isn’t enough and because I can’t click to create 4.5. The only reason I do this is because I found it impossible on the first viewing (and difficult now that I’m going through it again) to keep the dream warriors, from either side, straight. Every one of them, whether they speak or not, are as strong as the principles.
Getting a kidnapped girl back is perhaps thrilling enough on its own, but Ink has the combatants involved in intense hand-to-hand work. There are a couple of special effects that sharpen the edges of the story and its telling. When an item in the real world is broken or overturned, it is quickly righted again (this may sound childish, but it works within the context). The other is a simple effect of hiccup editing where it appears that the editors cut some frames and taped the edges together carelessly (I have no idea what this style is called and would appreciate it if someone can let me know its name).
Told in a linear fashion, the film would be a 3 star thriller at best. Emma’s travels from the place of her kidnap to the place of her sacrifice are linear (and must be), but it is interrupted by battle prep, fighting, and dream sequences from both Emma and John. These keep the viewer on her/his toes or edge of seat. Though they have the potential of making the film extremely confusing, they are presented in a way that fits together without error. This structure mimics the fractured nature of the way many of us remember our dreams.
Jamin Winans wrote and directed the film. His imagination and his abilities to carry it to the screen were phenomenal and I truly hope he is able to use these tools in a similar way moving forward.
What did you think of this review?