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When I first saw "Point break" I thought that Kathryn Bigelow made the only action masterpiece of her career but there she was only four years later with a magnificent story written by James Cameron and an unforgettable classic called "Strange days". Ralph Fiennes has never been as cool as he was when the guy played Lenny Nero and Juliette Lewis was almost too sexy to be true. The whole movie is a remarkable experience. I saw it couple of days after the turning of 2000 and I was totally stunned because I expected a silly little b-scifi flick. What I got was a powerful first rate mystery thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole bloody time. I just recently watched it again and was afraid that the movie would let me down when I've seen it once but on the contrary, like wine this one only got better with age. What a shame "Strange days" never got the recognition it obviously deserves. This is a cult movie, at best, but the fact that it doesn't have a placing in the IMDb top 250 is a huge injustice. Definitely the best of all millennium movies. 10/10
The answer being, of course, yes I am impressed.
What a thoroughly enjoyable film Strange Days is. Fast-moving and occasionally violent, it's not high art but then neither is it dumbed-down fodder and it has much to commend it. The central plot revolves around an ex-cop (Fiennes, doing a - to my ears anyway - convincing American accent) peddling FBI technology on the black market. The SQUID technology (Super conducting QUantum Interface Device) electronically absorbs information from the central cortex and allows users to experience the thrill of another's sensations - be it murder, sex, robbery, etc. Of course, this central idea, while fascinating, does derive pretty much directly from a Twilight Zone episode. Were this a "classic" Zone episode from the b/w era, then people would have picked it up straight away and the game would be over. As it is, the inspiration comes from one of the colour Twilight Zone episodes which had even less viewers than Strange Days and so the movie can rest assured it is safe in obscurity. (Give up? Okay, it was episode 23, season three, 1989, "The Mind of Simon Foster". I'm an anorak, I know these things).
But whether such were intentional is pretty much irrelevant as the magpie technique of this film takes from many texts and builds something greater than the parts. One of the two greatest science fiction films of the 90s - the other being the excellent "Twelve Monkeys" - both have built-in sell-by dates by fixing their time period in a very near locale. Hence while the supposed date of Monkeys is long past at 98, this film now becomes a historical document as of New Year's Eve 1999. But then does it follow that we will stop watching 2001 in 2002? Hopefully not, and Strange Days is one that too deserves to be revisited in years to come.
The reason why I commend it most is its rewarding political stance. The development that gets adhered onto the "Squid" plot directly references the beating of Rodney King. Such contemporary referencing may again date it as quickly as the '99 setting, but then we also have Angela Bassett as a very empowered, yet caring black woman. Note how she and Lenny have exchanged traditional gender roles in this film, yet this feels not like some "macho woman" schtick but genuine characterisation. Lenny is a likeable, wisetalking street peddler who spends the film as a human punchbag. Gone is the cliched jaw-breaking action man role for him, instead his only retort to violence is "I'll give you my Rolex". This sense of, if you like, PC-ness, can also be evidenced with the lesbian couple kissing as the year 2000 breaks, or the (one scene only, admittedly) appearance of a disabled man as a central character.
However, the boundary-pushing elements of this movie are tainted by the appearance of Juliet Lewis in the film. A capable actress, her only role appears to be as a receptacle for various men's sexual needs or to gratuitously expose her breasts on multiple occasions. This is a great shame, and a pity that a film which has such high intentions in almost every other area should fall back on unfortunate portrayal.
The dialogue is pitched just about right without being particularly clever, though occasionally it stalls. "You're like a goddamn cruise missile, targetted on making it", Fiennes tells Faith (Lewis) at one point, managing to keep a straight face. Later, Bassett must endure having to say "These are used emotions. It's time to trade them in" and not use her gun on the scriptwriter. When the credits do roll, it's perhaps no surprise that James Cameron was the co-writer, as its slight perfunctory, by-the-numbers stance often reminds one of the machinations of "Titanic". Tom Sizemore as Max is every inch the one-dimensional Cameron "character", while plot twists sometimes feel heavily engineered. Maybe Jay Cocks is responsible for the script's more "human" feel, with particular note going to the moral debate of whether or not to expose the LAPD's murder of an influential black rapper. The two leads debate (internally, as well as verbally, a first for a Cameron movie) the implications and the possible consequences of such an action. Despite its flirtation with the mainstream, Strange Days is a film that dares to pervert the traditional course of Hollywood into a future that is worth seeing. Perhaps predictably, it made little impact at the box office.
Strange Days is a truly astonishing science fiction offering, part scripted
by James Cameron and directed with relentless panache by maverick
lady-director Kathryn Bigelow. It presents a depressing and bleak, yet
worryingly probable, view of the near future, and hooks its story threads
upon the impending millennium eve celebrations. Although December 31st,
1999, has been and gone since the making of this movie, it is a credit to
the makers that this film still offers a plausible viewpoint about where the
world might be at in the next decade or so.
Ralph Fiennes seems initially miscast, but soon wins over the audience as Lenny Nero, a sleazy racketeer who sells "memories" captured on some form of disk, similar to virtual reality but recorded from real experiences rather than computerised ones. He is desperately trying to get back with his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis), but she doesn't want him as she has hooked up with a music producer named Philo (Michael Wincott). Lenny acquires two disturbing tapes, one showing the rape and murder of a woman, the other showing a racially motivated slaying, and before he knows it he is on the run from the culprits who want to kill him before he exposes their crimes. The only person he can trust is his best friend, lady bodyguard Mace (Angela Bassett). To complicate matters further, his ex-girlfriend Faith seems to know something about the disks, and may either be involved in the crimes or at great risk from those responsible.
Bassett is the real star here, in the role of a lifetime as a morally strong and physically stronger heroine. Lewis plays the same old white trash girl she has played many times, but at least she has the experience to bring total conviction to the role. The production values are incredibly high, especially the party at the end which seems to realistically convey an entire city celebrating in the streets. The plot unfolds slowly, but this is a strength rather than a criticism. Each new development slots into place beautifully, and the audience is given time to get into the characters and the situations (which, in too many movies, we are not allowed to do since the pace is often too frenetic).
Strange Days is challenging and aggressive and frequently disturbing. It is also inventive and exciting and ingeniously staged. It is simply a terrific science film which any devotee of the genre absolutely must see.
"Strange Days" literally has something for everyone. Science fiction, violence, peace, romance, comedy, tragedy, action, you name it -- it's in this film, and it's done with class and intelligence. I agree that this one is destined to become a cult classic. However, be prepared for one of the edgiest, most violent and emotionally exhausting films you've ever seen (the first three minutes of the film make it very clear what you can expect from the rest). There are at least five climactic scenes toward the end, which must break some kind of record. After the movie's over, you may feel like you've just been cooked in a vat of boiling oil... but luckily, you'll be perfectly well-done, not burned to a crisp. 10/10.
Unfortunately, this film failed at the box-offices, although it´s one of the
greatest masterpieces of the 90s. The first time I saw "Strange Days" was
about five years ago, and then over and over again. If you think Ralph
Fiennes is only able to play sensitive and problematic characters watch
this: it´s his most unusual, but one of the best performances in his career
- a performance of a coolness you only would expect from Samuel L. Jackson.
Angela Bassett is one of the toughest women cinema has ever seen and
Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Glenn Plummer, William Fichtner - every single
role is casted perfectly...
"Strange Days" is thriller, drama and big city ballad in one piece. I can´t remember any movie that reflects the philosophy of life of Generation X better than this one. Lenny deals with the "Squids" which are the experiences and emotions of men saved on a mini disc. Emotions as a product, a drug - a compensation of modern life for the growing loneliness and anonymity. The only possibility for weak persons like Lenny to feel real. A movie like "Fight Club" wouln´t have been possible without "Strange Days"; other releases like "The Cell" or even Scorsese´s "Bringing out the dead" copied the incomparable make. Although this film is older than six years it hasn´t lost anything explosive effects, what is connected with the video clip style this movie has, which gives "Strange Days" a touch of being ageless. The two most brilliant scenes are the opening sequence - the robbery in the Chinese restaurant - and the showdown down in the streets at the millenium party. Also the soundtrack (Deep Forest, Peter Gabriel, Skunk Anansia, Strange Fruit...) is one of the best I´ve ever heard, what makes "Strange Days" an unforgettable experience for every watcher. (10/10)
Yep. It sure shows that Cameron has laid his hand on this film. It has a
superb plot, great timing and a spectacular ending - one of the best ever, I
Just about everything you see in this film adds to the momentum. Just look in the background. There is always something going on, someone getting arrested or stealing something or burning something... all of it enhances the doomsday feeling you get when watching.
I also find Fiennes' acting just short of perfect. His face, his gestures and his entire being reeks of the sordid life his character leads. To cast him was genius. Lewis, Sizemore, Bassett and Wincott perform excellently as well - but it's really Fiennes that just makes this film happen.
Do you want to see something unusual for a change? Do you long to see a believable sf-story for once, even despite the fact that the events of the film took place in 1999? And do you yearn for a sensational film made to make you really feel something? See Strange Days.
Strange Days is an interesting film, with a great premise. It also happens
to be well-executed, for the most part. The LA of the future (well, future
back when it was released in 1995) is quite dystopian in nature, and Strange
Days manages to present all facets of that using Taxi Driver-influenced car
rides through the city while observing the chaos on the streets. In many
ways, Strange Days manages to create a real-life and convincing future, and
it feels like a true place, with things going on independently of the events
in the movie, rather than feeling like a movie set.
Atmosphere aside, though, the movie has many strengths. The plot is intriguing, and it flows quite smoothly. A lot of the dialogue is really quite interesting and gives the movie a nice feel (not to mention the actors do a pretty good job with the material). The characters are three-dimension and interesting. While the beginning parts were somewhat disjointed (at least in terms of plot), they did serve as an excellent setup. When the movie was its best (during the middle parts) there is a frantic sense of urgency that really drives the picture along. It's a very entertaining movie, and it managed to form an emotional link with me - always a good sign.
Unfortunately, it kind of goes downhill after that. Strange Days ends up resorting to awfully cliche ideas, complete with plot elements seen a million times in movies before. All of this mars what could have been a real classic film. It's too bad that Cameron and Cocks had to resort back to this, since the movie has so many strengths and so many great things that it could have built on. While the movie is still above average, it just isn't as superb as it could have been. Nonetheless, Strange Days succeeds on many levels and is well worth watching.
I had no idea this film even existed until it showed up in my Netflix
'recommended' column, and I decided to give it a shot after reading
some good reviews on there. Wow, am I happy I did.
This was a truly fantastic sci-fi thriller, with intense action and a truly engaging story. The characters were very well constructed and had a lot of substance to them, and of course the acting was superb. Who knew Ralph Finnes could play such a good lowlife?
Set in an alternate (but totally recognizable) Los Angeles of 1999, the world has seemingly gone completely to hell, due to rampant poverty and class/racial tensions which are pushing society towards an all-out state of anarchy. The authorities are barely maintaining order, despite resorting to draconian measures to try and keep things in check. The director does an excellent job of painting this picture for us through fantastic environment and background shots which effectively build the tension and make us fully believe what is happening.
In this world, they have invented a type of virtual reality which allows an individual to record everything they are seeing and feeling directly through their brain, so as to then be played back later through someone else's brain, which allows the user to then see and feel exactly what was recorded without any danger (other than possible addiction). So needless to say a huge black market has sprung up to provide people with recordings of all kinds of illicit, criminal and sexual activities that they'd never actually get to experience in the real world. The plot of the movie builds from this technology.
However, other than this particular device and general state of social affairs, the alternate 1999 is pretty much identical to our 1999 (very much to it's credit). No flying cars, no wacky fashion, no aliens, no laser guns or anything like that. It was a great decision by the filmmakers to not bite off more than they could chew in that regard, as it would have distracted from a very solid story.
The films weaknesses are few, but are there nonetheless. It was a bit long... although I'm not usually one to complain about that kind of thing, so long as the time is necessary to tell the story. In this case an argument can be made either way, though I personally feel they could have lost about fifteen minutes or so (but to me it's a minor issue).
The director also felt the need to very quickly explain the origin of the virtual reality technology through a throwaway line of dialog, which really added nothing to the plot, and honestly made no sense; they said the technology was originally developed for the FBI so that informants wouldn't have to wear a wire, which is just dumb. The device is WAY more cumbersome and easily discoverable than a wire transmitter. How about saying that the military invented it to train soldiers more realistically? Or just leave it alone... true virtual reality is a technological holy grail. I don't think anyone questions why something like that would be invented in the first place, even if it's purely for entertainment.
Additionally, in my opinion, a couple of the 'bad guys' could have had their motivations fleshed out a tad better, but that is a also very minor quibble.
Beyond that, the look of the movie is quite dated, which could hinder the enjoyment for some people. The 1990's did not age very well to our eyes, and this movie is VERY much a product of that era. If you lived through it, you know what I mean. Younger viewers may not fully get the social and cultural allusions that this movie is built upon (Rodney King riots, 90's hip hop culture, rave clubs... things like that)... just something to keep in mind, although if you did live though it, you'll appreciate the depth that these references add.
But really, I can't recommend this film highly enough. It's a completely under-appreciated piece of work, and one of the best sci-fi thrillers out there.
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?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
`Strange Days', one of many films made in the mid- to late-1990s that chose
to dabble in `the near future of the year 2000', not only still looks good
in the year 2001, but holds its own as a darn good film. A mix of `Blade
Runner' film noir and uncomfortable realism, `Strange Days' has the audacity
to tackle some disturbing topics and to actually tell an interesting tale in
Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is a black market peddler of VR films - memory implants that are downloaded directly into the brain, allowing a person to vicariously sample someone else's experiences. The VR chips are like drugs, as people find the shared virtual experiences far better than those they find in their own lives. Lenny, who's both dealer and addict, is jarred back into reality when one of his friends is killed in vicious fashion - and the experience is captured on a VR film. Lenny comes to believe that his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis) may be next on the killer's list, so he begins his own search for the killer, partly to prevent anything bad from happening to Faith . . . and partly to impress Faith, and possibly win her back.
Visually, `Strange Days' is terrific - it's hard to see how this film could be better in that department, even if James Cameron had directed the film himself. Some of the shots are astounding, such as a point-of-view clip of a man running along a rooftop and jumping to his death, then another simple clip of a woman on a date . . . it's part of a VR film `sampling', one that gives the audience a taste of why the characters in `Strange Days' think the films are so real, and so voyeuristic. Combine that with the way other things are filmed in `Strange Days' - the close-up look of Lenny's face as he samples past memories through VR films, the utter sweeping chaos of a riot as shot from high above - director Kathryn Bigalow creates a film that's visually mesmerizing. The designers and special effects guys really went to town, and should be given full credit for creating an outstanding, memorable look for `Strange Days'.
Ralph Fiennes is awesome as Lenny - he's scummy and underhanded enough to keep himself from ever being a true hero, but he imbues Lenny with enough affable charm and backbone to make him likeable nonetheless. The rest of the cast falls short of Fiennes' great performance, though - Angela Bassett is decent as limo driver/armed muscle Mace, but Juliette Lewis is forgettable as Faith (and considering that she's supposed to be the love of Lenny's life, that drags the film down), and Tom Sizemore is more annoying than menacing as villain Max Peltier. The story, while highly original, is uneven as well - certain plot points get abandoned for no reason, and sometimes the characters' motivations really don't make any sense at all, save to advance the story into the next scene. The quick pacing of the film and its imaginative look help to gloss over these weaknesses, but they're still there, just the same.
Inventive and daring, `Strange Days' is a solid movie, falling short of true greatness only because of the awkward execution of some brilliant ideas. Still, it's very entertaining, and definitely worth viewing, especially if you're a fan of sci-fi films. Grade: B/B+
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