The Incident
The Incident opens in San Francisco on March 4

Do you love “The Twilight Zone”? If so, prepare yourself for El Incidente (The Incident), an apparent tribute — right down to composer Eddy Lan’s Herrmann-esque score — to the classic television series of yesteryear. Opening at San Francisco’s Roxie on Friday, March 4, the film is not currently scheduled to play in the East Bay.

Though its title may be in the singular, The Incident – at least on the surface – consists of two stories. As with the portmanteaus of countryman Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexican director Isaac Ezban eventually links the stories together, but unlike those in Iñárritu’s oeuvre, the tales told in The Incident play as well apart as they do together.

Story number one focuses on brothers Carlos (Amores Perros’ Humberto Busto) and Oliver (Fernando Álvarez Rebeil), petty criminals by trade. Carlos has just received good news regarding money that will help settle an outstanding debt, but his happiness comes to an abrupt end when Police Detective Marco Molina (Raúl Méndez) barges in to arrest the siblings.

A funny thing, alas, happens on the way to the precinct house. After a failed stairwell escape attempt ends with Marco shooting Carlos in the leg, it becomes clear that no one is going to be leaving the building any time soon. The elevators don’t work and the stairs themselves never seem to end, instead looping around, moebius-like, from the 9th floor to the 1st and back again.

Story number two begins as divorced Mom Sandra (Nailea Norvind), current love interest Roberto (Hernán Mendoza), and offspring Carmila and Daniel depart on a road trip to the seaside. When Carmila’s asthma inhaler is broken mid-journey, however, the holiday turns precarious as the road they’re travelling goes ever, ever on…and on…and on, punctuated only by a recurring gas station and a sign falsely promising sanctuary 44km ahead.

Eventually, the two stories come to a meeting point, but to tell more would be to spoil things. Let’s just say that The Incident takes a big leap into the future, while offering commentary on the deep, painful guilt triggered by the mistakes we all make from time to time.

Ezban’s first feature, The Incident suggests the soon to be 30-year old is most definitely a talent to watch. His film showcases cinematic skills seemingly far beyond the director’s years, avoiding the flaws of contemporary filmmaking (paper-thin writing, characters you don’t care about, frenetic camerawork) while weaving a smartly told, beautifully shot, and marvelously scored tale of magical realism that would make Rod Serling proud.

The Incident could easily have travelled into portentous Inception territory; instead, it offers food for thought that won’t give you mental indigestion. There are enough clues here – a hamster on a wheel, a print of an Escher staircase – to make the director’s intentions perfectly clear. In sum (and with apologies to the ghost of Mr. Serling), there is a middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call … The Incident. It’s well worth experiencing.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

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Freelancer John Seal is Berkeleyside’s film critic. A movie connoisseur with a penchant for natty hats who lives in Oakland, John writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box...