Strange Days (1995) Kathryn Bigelow

Production Budget: $42 million

Gross: $10 million

Many of you may know Bigelow from her most recent movie The Hurt Locker which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. You may even recognize her from this blog if you read the review for K-19: The Widowmaker (which I thought was pretty good). Today though, I am going to be talking about an even less well known bomb from her called Strange Days.

Strange Days is kind of like a cyberpunk noir. Lenny (Ralph Fiennes) is the fallen hero who used to be a good cop. Now he is a dealer in illegal entertainment called SQUID (Super conducting QUantum Interface Device). It is basically a device that reads all the emotions and sensations of a person’s experience. Lenny is drawn into a mystery by his former ex-girlfriend Faith (our femme fatale for the movie). Someone is recording murders and sending them to Lenny for some reason. Lenny has to work through his personal demons and solve the mystery.

There is so much I like about this movie. For one, the movie doesn’t go overboard with the science part of the science fiction. The only science gimmick we are given is the SQUID technology which is presented to us in a very plausible manner. In essence it is a more advance version of a body wire giving people a true POV experience. We know the rules and limits to it which allows the audience to quickly grasp the concept and understand it as the movie goes on. Plus the sequences in the 1st person perspective are really great. Bigelow invented brand new cameras that were light weight and could be worn around for easy POV shots. They really are amazing when you see the action and you wonder how they got such free movement or even little things like not reflecting cameras in the mirrors.

The plot is complex, but not a movie that is overwritten. You have several different plot threads (the death of a rapper called Jeriko One, the psycho stalking Lenny, Faith in trouble) but it all logically works together. You don’t get lost at any time and it all makes sense. I have to hand it to the writers that they do a mystery plot where I don’t ever really call bullshit or can rip on logical fallacies. I suppose it helps that you have a large cast with some good role players. Ralph Fiennes’ character would normally be an annoying comic relief character but he is really memorable. He does have a persona of a talker; a guy who would sell his grandmother’s dentures if the price were right. But he also shows a side with vulnerability of when he was an honest cop whose life was ruined by a woman he loved. Angela Bassett, who I haven’t even discussed yet, is equally as good as Mace. She is Lenny’s best friend who is a personal bodyguard. At one time she was being helped by Lenny when he was a cop, but now roles are reversed and Mace is now the one with her shit together and Lenny is the emotional mess. You also get some good supporting roles from Juliette Lewis, Michael Wincott, and even Tom Sizemore.

There is a surprising amount of depth to this film that I would love to spend more time figuring out. There is this whole correlation between the SQUIDS and film. Lenny tells one client that this isn’t TV only better but in a way he plays the role of a film director. Lenny is a storyteller and gives people experiences they would not normally have (from something extreme like robbing a liquor store to something like giving a cripple the experience of running on a beach). He is critical of “clips” for essentially not having good cinematography and terrible stories.

Strange Days is one of the more entertaining sci fi movies in many years. Everything about the movie comes together well for me. The plot is interesting and has plenty of good action and coherent twists. The acting is strong and carries a lot of the movie. This is one of the movies I like to highlight when I do this thread. Strange Days was never given any attention upon release and has for the most part been forgotten. This is a hidden gem and I highly recommend it.

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