Drama (US); 1999;
Rated R; 120 Minutes
Nicolas Cage: Frank Pierce
Patricia Arquette: Mary Burke
John Goodman: Larry
Ving Rhames: Marcus
Tom Sizemore: Tom Walls
Marc Anthony: Noel
Mary Beth Hurt: Nurse Constance
Produced by Barbara
De Fina, Jeff Levine, Bruce S. Pustin, Joseph P. Reidy,
Mark Roybal, Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder, Eric Steel; Directed
by Martin Scorsese; Screenwritten by Paul Schrader;
Based on the novel by Joe Connelly
by DAVID KEYES
a world of limitless movie imaginations, there are bad directors,
good directors, and Martin Scorcese. What makes this man
stand out from the others? Why is he in a class all his
own? Perhaps because his technique is rarely undertaken.
Here is a man who digs beneath the surface of a plot, and
pumps intense life into the most deeply hidden of details.
Most directors would sit at a frontal image, and savor all
of the easily-seen elements. Put Scorcese in a vast metropolis,
and he'd prefer reaching into the back alleys.
Out The Dead," Scorcese's newest, re-collaborates he and
writer Paul Schrader, who both worked together on the cornerstone
hit "Taxi Driver." Anyone who has had the time to explore
my tastes might already be able to tell you that I am not,
in any way shape or form, a fan of "Taxi Driver." But ultimately,
where that movie fails, "Bringing Out The Dead" succeeds.
This isn't a movie about uncompromising psychological plights,
but one about a man seeking hope, sense, and renewal. It
is a tale that has much to say, and one that speaks with
a clear and distinctive voice.
voice belongs to Nicholas Cage. He plays an EMS paramedic
named Frank Pierce, a man on the verge of mental collapse.
Haunted by images of an 18-year-old girl who died in his
care, Frank, along with three other paramedics in shifts,
scours the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen, answering distress
calls on his dispatcher radio. A typical paramedic might
leap at the chance of saving someone's life. Frank's journey
lacks every urge and anticipation, and with good reason--how
would you feel, after all, if you hadn't saved a life in
months when that is what your career calls for?
all things, there is hope. Frank finds his from a woman
named Mary (Patricia Arquette, who is Cage's real life wife),
a former junkie whose father, a fan of Sinatra music, goes
in and out of limbo in one of the film's most spectacular
scenes. We hear the music in the background, and observe
with concerned eyes as his body goes into cardiac arrest
and is suddenly revived. Because Frank feels hopeless at
this point, the revival, in a way, rekindles some faith.
A relationship with this victim's daughter helps to motivate
his need for redemption.
film is told in three nights, each set up with a different
partner for Frank. The first is played by John Goodman,
and is a man who finds distance from those around him by
thinking about food. Ving Rhames plays the second, a religiously
dependent man who thinks that saving lives is like living
miracles. The third, played by Tom Sizemore, is a bloodthirsty
lunatic, who cannot wait for distress calls, just so he
can witness the carnage before his eyes. Each embodies certain
qualities that could easily eliminate their selection of
a career. The only reason they do what they do, perhaps,
is because nothing else in the world will accept them. Much
of the plot's focus on these individuals feels trance-like,
as if they are wandering in dreamscapes occupied by images
of either fear or satisfaction.
seldom lets us down here; he pushes the camera into the
faces of his stars, hoping to snatch their genuine reactions
during important plot twists. When his lens is directed
on Cage, we see a sense of false hope and lingering sanity
clouding his eyes (at first). After his encounter with the
beautiful Mary, we feel a beam of light has reopened them.
The director is confident in his treatment, and like most
of his efforts, his strength lies in the story's interior.
there flaws? Oh, just a few. As a narrative, with voice-overs
done by Cage himself, there are abrupt diversions from the
film's other important characters, like the three paramedics
who shsare shifts. Potentially interesting personalities,
like one played by Latin sensation Marc Anthony, do not
get the exploration they deserve. And the relationship between
Mary and Frank, however important, feels underwritten. We
can't always be sure whether this is love or hope bringing
all the same, it is difficult to ignore the message explored
in "Bringing Out The Dead." Scorcese is a man with vision,
whose films like "Raging Bull" and "Alice Doesn't Live Here
Anymore" have pushed him onto the Hollywood "A"-list. With
"Taxi Driver," this film's distant cousin, he became disoriented
in his own foresight. This time, he delivers all the goods.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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