Set in the year 1999 during the last days of the old millennium, the movie tells the story of Lenny Nero, an ex-cop who now deals with data-discs containing recorded memories and emotions. One day he receives a disc which contains the memories of a murderer killing a prostitute. Lenny investigates and is pulled deeper and deeper in a whirl of blackmail, murder and rape. Will he survive and solve the case? Written by
Harald Mayr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've spoken before about how quickly sci-fi can date, bad sci-fi in particular. Even the best sci-fi movies ("Blade Runner", "Metropolis", "Terminator 2: Judgement Day", etc) have moments that weaken the film's atmosphere due to hindsight whether it's the futuristic billboards advertising Pan Am or John Conner's Public Enemy t-shirt. But this film, which is almost two decades old, remains staggeringly fresh and oddly believable despite the film being set at the very death of the twentieth century. Maybe it's because the film isn't really about the millennium at all. It's actually a sweeping and ambitious neo-noir covering redemption, voyeurism, racial tensions and corruption. It might not tick all the boxes but I believe this film should go down as a stone-cold classic.
December 30th, 1999 and business is good for smarmy deadbeat Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes). Ignoring the violence tearing society apart, Lenny peddles illegal mind-taps which record the memories and feelings of the person recording and allows users to replay them. But Lenny's position of influence in LA is at risk when he receives a "blackjack" - a snuff tape of a young woman being raped and murdered from the killer's point-of-view. Persuading his cop buddy Mace (Angela Bassett) and best friend Max (Tom Sizemore) to help him catch the sick killer, Lenny fears his ex-lover Faith (Juliette Lewis) could be next but she wants nothing to do with Lenny as she is busy cosying up to sleazy producer Philo Gant (Michael Wincott) in order to get her recording career off the ground.
I can think of few films as well-made as "Strange Days" which does an incredible job of portraying a city where the plot is one of merely many stories happening concurrently. You feel part of the crowd as the streets explode into a vast party, ticker-tape raining down as cops chase suspects and violence breaks out at the drop of a party hat. You also completely buy into the concept of the SQUID device replaying the experiences of different people - indeed, it's hard to believe that it won't be long before it's patented in real life. Completing the film's powerful grip on your attention are the cast - Fiennes is convincingly slimy as Lenny, who'd rather offer his fake Rolex to avoid confrontation. By contrast, Bassett acts as the true hero and she displays an aura of confidence, determination and strength that Lenny sorely lacks. It's such a positive and refreshing change to see a black woman play the hero instead of the white male sidekick, something which sadly still doesn't seem to happen that often in Hollywood. But for me, the director Kathryn Bigelow deserves every bit of credit for a film which seems chronically under-rated but remains a solid and impressive piece of work.
The only thing I didn't like was the very graphic sequences when the film switched to the brilliant first-person perspective and started butchering people. Of course, we have seen scenes of violence in movies for years but by bringing you into the action far better than a pair of 3D glasses ever will, the safety of the fourth wall has gone and it does make you feel uncomfortable. But technically, these sequences are a tour de force by Bigelow - utterly enthralling, brilliantly shot and completely believable, leaving me wondering exactly how they shot them. To be honest, I'm surprised no-one has thought of using the technology for an entire movie by now. It also runs out of steam towards the end and can't sustain the innovation throughout which is a pity, falling into genre stereotypes too easily. But overall, "Strange Days" is a truly magnificent picture. I'd forgotten how good it really is when I caught up with it yesterday and even though real life has obviously overtaken the events in the film, that shouldn't detract too much from what is a dark, imaginative and stunning piece of science-fiction cinema. And all this from the director of surfing bromance "Point Break" - who'd have thought it?
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