[Last Film I Watched] Strange Days (1995)

Strange Days poster

Title: Strange Days
Year: 1995
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre:Action, Crime, Sci-Fi
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writers:
James Cameron
Jay Cocks
Music: Graeme Revell
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes
Angela Bassett
Juliette Lewis
Tom Sizemore
Michael Wincott
Vincent D’Onofrio
William Fichtner
Glenn Plummer
Brigitte Bako
Richard Edson
Josef Sommer
Louis LeCavalier
Michael Jace
Nicky Katt
Kelly Hu
Rating: 7.3/10

Strange Days 1995

Ms. Bigelow’s fifth feature, STRANGE DAYS is written by her ex-husband James Cameron and co-writer Jay Cocks, which was an abysmal commercial disaster upon its release, its entire North American revenue only managed to collect one-sixth of its hefty 42-million price tag, which consequently put her director career on hold until THE WEIGHT OF WATER (2000). But in recent years, this 2-and-a-half-hour long dystopian cyberpunk has been justly touted as an under-appreciated mainstream artifact which pairs an unconventional interracial leads in the near-future where the world is cloaked by the turn-of-the-millennium panic and paranoia.

Doomsday is coming, the story takes place in L.A. in the last two days of 1999, Lenny Nero (Fiennes, convincingly shedding his British accent), a former LAPD officer, now is a purveyor of an illegal virtual reality technology called SQUID, which is brilliantly prescient of its script written 20-odd years earlier, also provides a fillip for the technology team to revolutionize a tailor-made POV-shot camera, which in turn introduces a highly-voyeuristic and visceral experience to whoever puts on that sprawling helmet meanwhile, leaves audience a jag of vicarious thrill. Lenny hustles his commodity in seedy bars, reminisces in the clips of good old days with Faith (Lewis), his ex-girlfriend, a punk singer who jolts him for Philo Gant (Wincott), a sadistic, shady music industry bigwig, and only gods know why!

The plot entails a heady mix-bag of murder, rape, rogue cops, racist hate crime and double-crossing, which pressingly couples a lovelorn, past-lingering Lenny with his limousine-driving, SQUID-repelling, forward-thinking friend Mace (an ass-kicking, sinewy Bassett in dreadlocks), who many a time comes to Lenny’s rescue, thus, Bigelow has stimulatingly thrusts an anomaly in the hackneyed odd-couple mode, Mace and Lenny, a black-colored heroine vs. a white-skin antihero, a unique pair driven into the mystery and danger by their respective attachments – one is manifest, the other is latent; one is mired in the past while the other beckons a brand new future.

Bigelow execution and Cameron’s storyline thrive on a daring exploitation of violence and female-abuse, liken SQUID’s strung-out mental effect to drug addiction (on a lesser note, the whole gambit can be replaced by videotapes and the story would go exactly the same way, minus the Sci-Fi appeal), and expertly concoct a grandiose milieu of an apocalyptic pandemonium. Ralph Fiennes mingles his genteel characteristic with squarely sympathetic vibes even he sticks to the wrong choice all the way (save the ending), a battered SQUID-addict doesn’t care for his own safety but a lost soul doesn’t need his extrication; Angela Bassett counteracts Fiennes’ self-destructive inclination with her towering brio and incredible stamina, justly earns both a kiss from the one she has been secretly in love with for a long time and audience’s extolment in the end of the day. Juliette Lewis gives thrilling live performances as a punk-head (with some gratuitous nudity as well), which is certainly in her wheelhouse. Lastly, the whodunit disclosure in the third-act fails to ferment transcendent empathy like the sub-genre’s top-dog BLADE RUNNER (1982) has achieved, not the least because Tom Sizemore in that God-awful wig is really a turn-off, on other grounds, STRANGE DAYS is a distinctively one-off studio extravaganza, it defies the mass’s expectation, and receives an unwarranted cold-shoulder, but any at rate one must give some credits to its boldness and finesse.

Oscar 1995  Strange Days

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