Strange Days

Strange Days

****1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

As the millennium approaching in Los Angeles, ex-cop Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) has fallen on hard times. Having been let go by both the LAPD and former love, Faith (Juliette Lewis), Lenny now sells memory disks which can give the user any experience that someone has recorded. However, as the New Year celebrations approach, Lenny gets his hands on a disk that could unhinge society and must rely on his two closest friends, bodyguard Mace (Angela Bassett) and private investigator Max (Tom Sizemore), to help him do the right thing.

Despite potentially appearing as a straightforward action excursion, there’s a lot going on in Strange Days. While giving us a damn good conspiracy thriller on the surface, it also takes time to render a serious character arc concerned with moving on from past woes, a commentary on technology as a new form of drug and an examination of the fragility of racial harmony. This sound a little heavy for you? Don’t worry, you get to see Juliette Lewis pretty much naked.

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Additionally, with legendary filmmaker James Cameron producing and writing, Strange Days feels like one of his movies. We have the strong female figure Mace, who is more than capable of kicking ass a la Ripley from Aliens and Sarah Connor from T2. We have the reluctant male hero struggling to accept his role in saving the future, much like T2’s John Connor. We also have a Terminator-like dystopian future where the once pleasant LA has become a cesspool of decay, on the verge of destroying itself. With all this in mind (as well as the fact promotional material misleadingly labelled it as “A James Cameron Movie”) you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘Iron’ Jim sat in the director’s chair.

In actual fact, credit belongs to his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow. Delivering another visceral cracker that proves cult-favourite Point Break was no celluloid flash in the pan, Bigelow delivers a neo noir that hides its hope and redemption under a throbbing veil of paranoia, tension and adrenalin. As for the very first scene – which is reminiscent of Keanu’s foot chase in the aforementioned surfing flick – it’ll have even the most knowledgeable film fans scratching their heads as to how it was filmed. You got any idea, you let us know.

However, that’s not to say Strange Days is merely eye candy and fancy camera work. Like you’d expect from a Cameron script, it oozes originality, the internal logic is so impressive it withstands examination and the characterisation remains in the foreground despite some vein-bulging set pieces. As for our ‘hero’ Lenny, Fiennes flawlessly portrays a once-good man whose bad experiences and past-love have reduced him into a sleazy “Santa of the subconscious” dealer. In supporting terms, Bassett is strong (literally) though underdeveloped, Sizemore is capable despite occasionally nibbling scenery and Michael Wincott is perfectly husky as resident ‘bad guy’ of the piece.

Strange Days is another great ‘Cameron’ movie and deserves to be more well-known that it is. A Hollywood movie with creativity, flair and bundles of originality? These are strange days indeed.

Reviewed on: 11 Dec 2008
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Forbidden memories on disk, yours for the right price.
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Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writer: James Cameron, Jay Cocks

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D'Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, Brigitte Bako, Richard Edson, William Fichtner

Year: 1995

Runtime: 145 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

SSFF 2011
BIFF 2017

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