Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Cheer up. The world's about to end in ten minutes anyway."

Movie: Strange Days 
Year: 1995
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: James Cameron and Jay Cocks
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D'Onofrio, William Fichtner.
Running time: 145 min

Despite being alive at the time, I don't really remember the huge event that was the turn of the millennium. Well, yeah, I was four years old at the time and I was probably more worried about reading books (apparently I was good at that). All I actually remember of this 2000 event was this magnet on the fridge explaining everything that we needed just in case 'Y2K' had a devastating effect on our lives. Oh, and this song that we had to sing at school about it in 2004. But it would seem that 2000 was a pretty big deal, so much so that there was a movie made about it in 1995. With Kathryn 'First woman to win Best Director' Bigelow directing and her ex-husband James 'King of the World' Cameron writing, the two managed to make a sci-fi/action movie, pretty much set within the architecture of the mind, against the paranoia surrounding 2000. Oh yeah, it's pretty awesome.

Strange Days takes a look into a world that isn't so realistic any more; it's all about the 'playback'. What is this? Well, ex-cop Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is now enjoying a career dealing 'SQUID' tapes, which are basically like video tapes that don't record stuff of the TV, but they record real life. This is a pretty good life, until Lenny comes across a tape which shows a prostitute being raped and murdered. Suddenly, Lenny, along with his two best friends, bodyguard Mace (Angela Bassett) and private investigator Max (Tom Sizemore) are brought into a web of murder and blackmail, all through these recordings. All the while, the world is about to end and Lenny is still pining for his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis).

Unfortunately, Strange Days was a commercial failure back in 1995, as it only scored back just under $8,000,000 of its $42,000,000 budget during its theatrical release. These 1995 peeps don't know what they were missing out on (actually, I'm sorry that I didn't see it. I was about two months old then and I didn't like movies back then, but I would have paid money to see it in cinemas!) Strange Days is freaking badass. You know what makes it even more badass? The fact that it was directed by a woman. Bigelow, the ageless woman who has basically inspired me to make movies, directs this movie like any other man would, but only better. The POV shots - and believe me, there are a lot of them - are pretty awesome. It's easy to get drawn into the world that these 'SQUID' things have made, as the POV shots aren't the corny kind that go all over the place faster than a normal head could move. While the film still has all of the nooks and crannies that you expect from a 90s flick, it has aged a lot better than some of the other 90s movies I have seen. Mainly because it is quite a timely and very fitting portrayal of 2000...because you know how rapidly the world changes these days.

There are so many things which set Strange Days apart from other science fiction blockbusters. The gritty and relentless look at a street-hustlers life in LA doesn't really shy away from much. It's an ultra-violent ride which basically has a bit of everything in it, and it fortunately doesn't forget to have smart and witty dialogue. Another thing it doesn't forget to do is give us complex characters, with equally complex performances. Now, we all know that Ralph Fiennes is a bloody good actor. Strange Days came two years after his breakthrough (and my favourite of all time) performance as a ruthless Nazi in Schindler's List, and he is completely different here. Okay, so his character isn't the overtly good guy, but he's smooth-talking and lovable, and not to mention extremely sexy with his long hair and rather interesting designer outfits. Angela Bassett is a real stand-out here, though. James Cameron is known for creating strong female action characters, and Bassett's Mace is nothing short of awesome. While she is an ass-kicking bodyguard who is probably a lot stronger than Lenny, she's still human because of her easy-to-relate-to vulnerability and her unrequited love towards Lenny. The rest of the cast is great, with the small exception of Juliette Lewis who, quite frankly, really pissed me off.

The film is a little longer than it needs to be, which is understandable because it has a lot of ground to cover and a few things to explain. I have to say, I found this film to be pretty damn awesome. No, that's not just because I have a huge crush on Ralph Fiennes. It's a film that promises "an extreme taste of reality", and we get exactly that. It's unadulterated fun that wears its R18 sticker proudly. Most of all, it's a fully satisfying ride that is more complex than some of the other films of its kind. And can I just remind you again that it's directed by a woman? Kathryn Bigelow, I think I actually love you.

What I got:


  1. I don't want to ruin anything here, but I saw this movie and thought it was pretty meh. In fact, that's what I thought about pretty much all of Bigelow's movies up until THE HURT LOCKER. That movie was her breakthrough, her fucking masterpiece, but all the movies that came before it... as action movies, they're fine, but I have trouble taking them seriously. Sorry, but that's just a personal taste thing.

  2. I actually watch this movie wen it came out in glorious VHS... But at the time I was not impressed by it. Oh well, I got to say that I was hard to impress back on those days. Anyway, great review. It makes me wanna watch the film again. Greetings from Portugal!

  3. oh stevee i can't even defend your taste from these naysayers as i havent seen it yet. i desperately want to. thats why it's on the noir list. at 108. i skimmed the review to try to avoid spoilers. you certainly seemed to appreciate and i hope i will feel the same.

    i don;t expect a huge amount with a james cameron script tbh.

  4. I watched that movie when I was 15 when it first came on TV and thought it was one of the coolest films I had seen. It still is. It's fun, it's got thrills, and lots of kick-ass moments. It's among one of my favorite films by Kathryn Bigelow who was definitely an underrated filmmaker during that time.

  5. How old can one person make me feel? HAHAH I was 27 in 2000 and remember the paranoia well about the new millennium.

    I haven't seen this film though, I am not sure why it passed me by.

    Thanks for reviewing my friend

  6. Tyler - Oh. Okay. I've actually only watched this and The Hurt Locker, and I really liked them both, of course. I don't really know that I want to check out all of Kathryn Bigelow's other work, but I just know that she is kicking ass, being a female director and all.

    Paulo - Greeting from New Zealand!
    Oh, good old VHS. I don't know why, but this film strikes me as the type that should be watched on VHS, haha.

    Toby - Ha, I know that there are some people out there who like it, but they just don't seem to want to back me up! I hope you do enjoy it, somehow.

    thevoid99 - Thank goodness someone agrees with me! It is pretty cool, isn't it?

    Scott - Haha, I'm sorry. I don't remember the new millennium at all :(

  7. I watched the last 45 minutes or so one day and was intrigued. It's on Netflix Instant and I started watching but didn't get too far. I do like what I've seen. Juliette Lewis pisses me off too. Can't stand her in Cape Fear.

    Bigelow is definitely a great director. I even like Near Dark.

  8. This is a top movie. Excellent screenplay by James Cameron and really well directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The film still stands up well today despite it being somewhat dated.

    As you say - "awesome"!

  9. Robert - Definitely do watch the whole thing if you get a chance. It's a bit long, but it's quite cool.
    Glad Juliette Lewis pisses someone off. Her voice kinda annoys me.
    Bigelow is awesome! I should definitely seek out more of her work!

    Dan - Amen to all of that!


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