An Easter story. Frank is a Manhattan medic, working graveyard in a two-man ambulance team. He's burned out, exhausted, seeing ghosts, especially a young woman he failed to save six months' before, and no longer able to save people: he brings in the dead. We follow him for three nights, each with a different partner: Larry, who thinks about dinner, Marcus, who looks to Jesus, and Tom, who wallops people when work is slow. Frank befriends the daughter of a heart victim he brings in; she's Mary, an ex-junkie, angry at her father but now hoping he'll live. Frank tries to get fired, tries to quit, and keeps coming back, to work and to Mary, in need of his own rebirth. Written by
Bringing Out the Dead is another Scorsese Masterpiece
Director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Shrader, these two names alone stand for excellence and brilliance, put them together and you havebrilliant film making history as witnessed by their former collaborations ("Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull" and "The Last Temptation of Christ"). Add the totally compelling and very real "Bringing Out the Dead" to that list. Based on the novel by Joe Connelly, a former EMS worker, "Bringing Out the Dead" follows three long nights in the life of New York City paramedic Frank Pierce (Nicholas Cage) as he navigates through the life and death situations of the last era of the "mean streets" of New York City, the early 90's, all the while attempting to hold on to his sanity by a thread.
Scorsese creates a very real New York (before the gentrification of the Giuliani era) that is rarely seen in films. This is not the flashy and glitzy New York that is often shown in most movies. He goes deep into the psyche of a city that is crammed with 9 million people, some who are struggling just to stay afloat. As the character Mary says, "You have to be strong to survive in this city." Some of the scenes in the movie are so memorable and haunting such as Frank's hallucination of actually pulling people literally from the steam shrouded pavement and bringing them back to life and the harrowing, almost Christ-like sequence where Frank is saving a drug dealer from death as he dangles from a balcony.
Nicholas Cage, one of our finest actors working today, gives a brilliant performance of great emotional range that is draining to watch. You literally see him coming unglued piece by piece. This is his best performance since "Leaving Las Vegas". Patricia Arquette (Cage's wife) gives a very moving and subtle performance of a person who has been to hell and back while struggling to maintain some balance in the jungle. Goodman, Rhames and Sizemore turn out good performances as always playing Cage's co-pilots in the nightly journeys. Also standing out are Latin singer, Marc Anthony as a homeless crazy and Cliff Curtis as a drug dealer who provides an "oasis" for the stressed-out individuals of the city. An excellent director and a great script are a perfect formula for producing top-notch performances by actors and Scorsese and Shrader bring out the best in theirs.
With it's story of the lead character Frank cruising the streets making narrative comments about life in the city, comparisons will be made naturally to Scorsese's other brilliant work "Taxi Driver" with it's main character Travis Bickle, but those comparisons are normal and stop right there. Where Travis Bickle wanted to save people who did not need saving, Frank Pierce reaches out to people who desperately need saving, but does not always have the power to save as in the case of the homeless girl Maria, who haunts him constantly. Also Scorsese is too highly intelligent, creative and the ultimate professional to retread the same waters, he never takes the easy road. A Scorsese film is like any great film, it takes time to take it in and digest, because there are so many different layers added that need to be looked at long after the last reel finishes. This is a powerful piece of filmmaking proving once again that Martin Scorsese is one of the all-time great directors of this century. Highly Recommended. × × ××
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