Title: Strange Days
Genre:Action, Crime, Sci-Fi
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Music: Graeme Revell
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
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.