A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 9 – Strange Days

Strange Days – March 9, 2010

Let’s start with the light stuff and get it out of the way, because make no mistake, while this movie might have been marketed as an action/scifi/murder mystery? It gets pretty fucking dark, pretty fucking fast. Now, this movie stars Ralph Fiennes as Lenny and Angela Bassett and her AMAZING BICEPS OH MY GOD (seriously, I saw this movie and immediately wanted to be Angela Bassett – still do) as an old friend of his, Macy. There are some other familiar faces too. Vincent D’Onofrio, looking a lot less smug than he normally does on Criminal Intent. Juliette Lewis as, well. Juliette Lewis. And Micheal Wincott, who will always be the creepy bad guy in The Crow to me but here plays a guy named Philo, which I’m guessing is a nod and a wink to Philo T. Farnsworth. And then there’s Tom Sizemore, who I’m now more used to seeing on VH1 with Dr. Drew. It’s a pretty decent cast overall, and fucking stellar with its two leads. Fiennes is all sleaze and wasted potential and Bassett is probably one of the baddest bad ass bitches I’ve ever seen on screen. You wonder why she puts up with him until the conversation before the party at the end.

It’s a hard scene in a movie full of hard scenes. A lot of this movie is difficult to watch. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s painful. When I first saw ads for this movie it looked pretty cool. Action sci-fi murder mystery set in the near future! Except that movies set in the “near future” are sort of doomed to fall into the past very quickly. There’s no way to set something in the “future” and name a year and have it not be dated. And yet the mood of the movie needs its setting. It needs that fin de siècle, the world is on the edge of revolution, everything’s coming to a head feel.
“The economy sucks, gas is over three bucks a gallon…” Our dystopian future, ladies and gentlemen! Okay, so we don’t have the direct link to the brain porn, but we are all sort of voyeurs to each others’ mundane lives. What the hell else are YouTube and Twitter, right? The thing is, I still think the conceit of the movie, the “drug” Lenny deals, “wire tripping”, it’s a good concept. Not a new one, certainly, but it’s a good one. We’re hooked enough to seeing what other people’s lives are like. What if we could feel what they were feeling? I totally buy the idea. It’s more involved than Niven’s wireheads and it’s done a hell of a lot better than it was done in TekWar. Yeah, I watched the TekWar movies. Don’t judge.

Anyhow, what strikes me is that there are two movies going on here. There are two plots and until you hit the end, it’s hard to see where the borders are. Lenny and Macy and the people around them spin and careen through the movie and the city and both plots until they’re knotted together so tightly they’re inseparable. There’s the murder of the rapper, Jeriko, the facts of which could start a riot that’s been building for a while now. And there’s the murder of Iris, a contact of Lenny’s who knew something terrible. They’re the same plot. But they’re not. Because the movie takes you through the incipient riot and the chaos and the police and the tensions rising and the tanks on the streets, and then it makes you follow Lenny and Macy while they try to track down a single killer. One they don’t even know is connected to Jeriko until well into the movie. And through it all you’ve got Lenny’s obsession with his ex. The tensions in the small scale, with the two cops and Lenny and Philo and Macy kicking everyone’s ass, are set against this backdrop of a world where bad things happen as a matter of course and there are bigger things to worry about than whether Lenny’s ex is in trouble.

It’s an amazingly well done movie. And for something set in “the future” of 1999-2000? It holds up remarkably well.

Tomorrow night we’re going to take the whole “continuous take” idea (which is used to amazing effect at the opening of Strange Days) and watch Russian Ark.

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March 9, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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