Strange Days (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kathryn Bigelow|
|Produced by||James Cameron
|Screenplay by||James Cameron
|Story by||James Cameron|
|Music by||Graeme Revell|
|Cinematography||Matthew F. Leonetti|
|Editing by||James Cameron
Howard E. Smith
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||October 13, 1995|
|Running time||145 minutes|
Strange Days is a 1995 American cyberpunk thriller film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Co-written and produced by her ex-husband James Cameron and co-written by Jay Cocks, it stars Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Michael Wincott. It was a commercial failure, earning only a fraction of its production cost in its domestic release.
The film was nominated for five Saturn Awards including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Writing for Cameron and Cocks and Best Actor for Fiennes, with Bassett winning Best Actress and Bigelow becoming the first woman to win the Saturn Award for Best Director, fifteen years before becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (April 2011)|
In December 1999, Los Angeles has become a dangerous war zone. As a group of criminals rob a Chinese restaurant, the event is recorded by a robber wearing a 'SQUID', or "Superconducting Quantum Interference Device", which records events directly from the wearer's cerebral cortex, and when played back through a MiniDisc-like device allow a user to experience the recorder's memory.
Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is a former LAPD officer turned black marketeer who deals in bootleg SQUID recordings. His main supplier, Tick (Richard Edson), tries to sell the robbery clip to him. Lenny eventually agrees to buy it at a reduced price.
Meanwhile, a call girl named Iris (Brigitte Bako) is being chased by two police officers as she flees to the subway. As the train departs, one of the officers shatters a window and grabs Iris; her wig is pulled off, revealing a SQUID recorder headset.
Lenny pines for his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis), while relying on his two best friends, bodyguard Lornette "Mace" Mason (Angela Bassett) and private investigator Max Peltier (Tom Sizemore), for emotional support. Mace has unrequited feelings for Lenny and disapproves of his SQUID-dealing business. While the three are drinking together at a bar, Iris arrives, drops a disc through the sunroof of Lenny's car and flees when she sees police nearby. Lenny's car is towed away before Lenny can find the disc.
Hours later, Lenny receives a "blackjack" (snuff) SQUID from an anonymous sender, and watches Iris gets raped and killed. Lenny tries to get Faith away from her new boyfriend, music industry mogul Philo Gant (Michael Wincott), but to no avail.
Lenny later receives more snuff tapes. He and Mace discover that the deaths are tied to a cover-up of the murder of rapper Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer) and one of his band mates by two renegade LAPD officers. As they are hunted by the two policemen, Burton Steckler and Dwayne Engelman (Vincent D'Onofrio and William Fichtner), Lenny discovers that Iris witnessed the murders.
Lenny, Mace, and Max discover that Tick has been rendered brain-dead from exposure to highly amplified SQUID recordings. Lenny concludes that the assault on Tick was committed by the same person that killed Iris and fears Faith will be next.
Lenny and Mace confront Faith about the truth behind Jeriko's death. Faith mentions that Philo has been monitoring his inner circle. Philo hired Iris to spy on him. Lenny convinces Faith to escape with them, but Philo's henchmen stop them.
As midnight approaches, Lenny and Mace sneak into a private New Year's party at the Bonaventure Hotel that Philo is hosting for the city's wealthy elite. Lenny gives the disk to Mace so she can deliver it to Deputy Police Commissioner Palmer Strickland (Josef Sommer). Upon entering Philo's penthouse suite, Lenny finds another SQUID disk which shows Faith apparently being raped and killed. Lenny finds a body covered in bedsheets and pulls the sheets aside to find Philo, whose brain has been overwhelmed in the same manner as Tick's. Lenny discovers the killer is Max. He only pretended to kill Faith and it becomes apparent that the two have become lovers. In the clip, Philo enters the room and Max forces him to run the amplified recording. Max and Faith enter the room. Max disarms Lenny and shoots Philo with Lenny's gun, explaining that he set Philo up because he wanted to have Faith killed for what she knew about Jeriko One's death, and that he now intends to frame Lenny for Philo's murder. Faith has a change of heart and attacks Max. Lenny manages to throw Max off the balcony.
Outside the hotel, Mace is pursued by Steckler and Engelman. She manages to subdue both of them, cuffing them to a scaffold, only for other nearby police officers to brutally beat her, triggering a riot in the crowd. Commissioner Strickland appears, restores order, and orders the two officers arrested. Engelman grabs a pistol from one of the officers and commits suicide, and Steckler is gunned down by the police when he tries to shoot Mace. Faith is arrested for Philo's murder. Lenny and Mace share a passionate kiss.
- Ralph Fiennes as Lenny Nero
- Angela Bassett as Lornette "Mace" Mason
- Juliette Lewis as Faith Justin
- Tom Sizemore as Max Peltier
- Michael Wincott as Philo Gant
- Vincent D'Onofrio as Burton Steckler
- William Fichtner as Dwayne Engelman
- Glenn Plummer as Jeriko One
- Brigitte Bako as Iris
- Josef Sommer as Palmer Strickland
- Nicky Katt as Joey Corto
- Richard Edson as Tick
- Michael Jace as Wade Beemer
- David Packer as Lane
- Skunk Anansie – "Selling Jesus"
- Lords of Acid – "The Real Thing"
- Tricky – "Overcome"
- Deep Forest – "Coral Lounge"
- Strange Fruit – "No White Clouds"
- Juliette Lewis – "Hardly Wait"
- Me Phi Me/Jeriko One – "Here We Come"
- Skunk Anansie – "Feed"
- Prong/Ray Manzarek – "Strange Days"
- Satchel – "Walk In Freedom"
- Kate Gibson – "Dance Me to the End of Love"
- Lori Carson/Graeme Revell – "Fall in the Light"
- Deep Forest feat. Peter Gabriel – "While the Earth Sleeps"
Strange Days was given a limited release on October 6, 1995 in only one theater and grossed $31,062 on its opening weekend. It was given a wide release on October 13, 1995 in 1,691 theaters and grossed $3,656,012 on its opening weekend. The film went on to make $7,959,291 in North America, little more than a sixth of its $42 million production cost.
This film required different shots and different cameras to be used. A few steady cams were used to shoot the SQUID at work on those who were using it and Director Bigelow took as much time as possible to get the scenes perfectly shot. She also rehearsed the passages so everything could be conveyed to the viewer without any foul ups. The alternate reality parts took a year to devise, but came out well after filming and editing. In addition, the film marked the first teaming of both Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett. Fiennes made a U.S. film debut in this film: he spent most of his time before in British and European films, including Schindler's List. Now he got to do an American made film for the first time, which he enjoyed appearing in. It was a good opportunity for Angela Bassett as well: in an interview with Cinemax, she said that before this film, she was typecast as victims: inclusive on the list were playing Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It and Betty Shabazz in Malcolm X. Now as Mace, she got to do lots of things that she didn't do before, including swimming from a submerged car and beating up on thugs that attack Lenny in one scene. She liked casting against type, and this role would serve as a tribute to other Black actresses who played tough women on screen, including (in particular) '70s actress Pam Grier, who was in part the inspiration for Bassett's character Mace.
In order to get the large crowd scene around the Bonaventure hotel, the director hired rave promoter Philip Blaine to produce an event featuring Aphex Twin and Deee-Lite. The event was called Millennium (based on the films plot that it was a NYE party) and tickets were only $10 plus food and drink was free. The reported attendance was 14,000 people. The event went till 2am when the fire marshall called it off because there was several inches of confetti around the entire site and cigarette butts were starting to cause little fires. No one was hurt.
The film received praise for its gritty, serious view of a possible future. Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "The movie is a technical tour de force ... The pacing is relentless, and the editing, by Howard Smith, creates an urgency and desperation". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised the performances of Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett: "Mr. Fiennes gleefully captures Lenny's sleaziness while also showing there is something about this schlockmeister that is worth saving, despite much evidence to the contrary. As for Ms. Bassett, she looks great and radiates inner strength even without the bone-crunching physical feats to which she is often assigned". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Strange Days has a dazzling atmosphere of grunge futurism, but beneath its dark satire of audiovisual decadence lurks a naggingly conventional underworld thriller". Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers called the film Bigelow's "magnum opus", and wrote, "In a film of striking performances, Bassett's is the standout—she is fierce, funny and heart rending". In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthmann wrote, "Strange Days wants to say something about faith and redemption—about the importance of maintaining one's humanity in a darkened world. That's a worthy intent, but Bigelow is so enamored of high-tech thrills, and so mesmerized by the violence she seeks to condemn, that her efforts at 11th-hour moralizing seem limp and halfhearted". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, "No matter how much thought may have gone into Strange Days, terribly little has come out the other end".
- Horsford, Simon (2008-05-09). "Thursday's TV & radio choices". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- "Strange Days". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Ebert, Roger (October 13, 1995). "Strange Days". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Maslin, Janet (October 6, 1995). "New, Improved Virtual Reality, 1999". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Gleiberman, Owen (October 13, 1995). "Strange Days". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Travers, Peter (October 19, 1995). "Strange Days". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Guthmann, Edward (October 13, 1995). "Virtual Reality Run Amok In Strange Thriller". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Turan, Kenneth (October 13, 1995). "Strange Days". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02.[dead link]
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