This stylish Brian De Palma thriller plays off the theme of the unsuspecting witness who discovers a crime and is thereby put in grave danger, but with a novel twist. Jack Terry is a master sound recordist who works on grade-B horror movies. Late one evening, he is recording sounds for use in his movies when he hears something unexpected through his sound equipment and records it. Curiosity gets the better of him when the media become involved, and he begins to unravel the pieces of a nefarious conspiracy. As he struggles to survive against his shadowy enemies and expose the truth, he does not know whom he can trust. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Brian De Palma's ''Blow Out'' starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen and John Lithgow would go down as my favourite film (just ahead of "Causalities of War" and ''Dressed to Kill'') of his on-going filmography. Usually I find him to be an on-and-off director, and ''Blow Out'' was switched on. It's one of those presentations that doesn't just hold you there with its captivating sombre murder mystery (similar to Blow-Up and 'The Conversation') relating to a political conspiracy, but also De Palma's showy technical side is nothing short than exquisitely striking. Well you might say that's the case for most of his work, however on this occasion its extremely well controlled to balance the story and it isn't so much the peering camera and sharp editing (although still commendably evident and how can you go wrong with split frames) but the ingenious use of sound effects and the ironic nature of our main protagonist being an audio technician for b-grade horror movies (which within the building he works bestows some cool horror posters that fans will surely pick up on).
The layered story has that old-fashion noir quality, with the momentum building upon mood and suspense constructing illuminating atmospherics and consisting of fitting performances. While the brooding plot screws around with its webby developments and taut tension, never does the suspiciously tactical script entirely pick it apart with any sort of depth or rationality. In the end its quite basic. However this made the harrowing impact of the film's conclusion even more lasting, as the emotional brunt came from De Palma's intensely slick visual work like the stirring slow-motion climax with Pino Donaggio's harrowing score (which holds a delightfully crisp and variable arrangement throughout). It's top drawer in De Palma's illustratively intimate details oozing with colour, tones and shades with it being served by some beautifully projected expressive photography and a lingering nasty current. An excellent John Travolta brings a convicted temperament to the lead and a bubbling Nancy Allen adds a perky injection. A precisely scheming performance by John Lithgow is truly menacing. Also in support is Denis Franz.
An enjoyably stylish, if simple thriller.
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