The Fifth Patient
LAS VEGAS -- Taking a page out of "The Bourne Identity" misplaced memory book, "The Fifth Patient," is, for its first hour, at least, a taut, claustrophobic mystery about a man who wakes up in a run-down African hospital with no idea of how he got there.
A first feature by writer-director Amir Mann, the film, which received its world premiere at CineVegas, the drama remains compelling right until the point at which it finally ventures out of its closed quarters and twists its way into murkier, more convoluted territory.
While the big reveal proves disappointing once the confusion clears, solid performances and atmospheric cinematography effectively set the alienating scene.
Nick Chinlund is the John Doe in question, a Westerner who regains consciousness in a fly-ridden ward, with only fragments of his memory intact.
He's encouraged to remedy that situation pronto by an unsympathetic officer of the current political regime (commandingly played by Isaach De Bankole), who suspects him of being a U.S. government agent.
As Mann gradually peels back the layers of fog, it only becomes clearer that nobody is quite who they profess to be in this puzzle of shifting loyalties.
It's not surprising that Mann's previous writing credits include an episode of one of the "Twilight Zone" revivals since "The Fifth Patient's" big payoff brings to mind "Where Is Everybody?" an early installment of the original classic series.
But here, the third-act rush to set up the surprise ending comes at the expense of the neatly gauged tension that came before it, making it all feel like a bit of a cheat.
Before things unravel, the cosmopolitan cast, which also includes director Bogdanovich as an enigmatic Middle Eastern businessman, help keep it intriguing.