By Robert Breckenridge
Arizona Daily Wildcat
This is a pretty good movie. Essentially, "Strange Days" is a suspense/crime drama wrapped up in a science fiction setting: in the not toodistant future, there exists technology which allows experiences to be recorded by participants and then replayed by others who, in turn, experience the event. The plot develops as recorded murders are delivered to the hero (Fiennes) who must track down the killer. Simple enough.
The technological element of the film is handled admirably. It is simple and intuitively designed, and audiences should have little difficulty in suspending disbelief to accept this premise of the film (and as you might imagine this is presented in the film almost exclusively through the use of sexual and violent experiences). On the other hand, the general setting is a little overexposed. It quickly becomes clear that the future is riddled with crime and general deterioration of social order, however the filmmakers feel obligated to provide footage of burning cars and roaming gangs of kids with guns and clubs about every fifteen minutes. I understood the setting right away, this was overkill.
The acting in the film is fine. Ralph Fiennes is an acceptable hero, and Juliette Lewis provides her typical performance as his ex-girlfriend. However, Angela Bassett is exemplary as the Hero Second-Class. She is one of the best actors of our time (as evidenced by her performance as Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do With It"), and plays an aggressive and assertive character with unusual subtlety (far better than Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2").
The screenplay is unfortunately awkward. The development of characters and presentation of settings is fine, but the plot development is secondary. (I didn't really care if I found out who the killer was) and ends with a slightly frustrating "surprise" you-could-never-have-guessed ending. Additionally, there is a trite subplot about police injustice which is all too popularly appealing (YAWN). Also, the script contains some particularly contrived, and sometimes unbelievable, dialogue. On the other hand, Kathryn Bigelow directs both the action and dramatic sequences with great skill (though there is one car chase directly lifted from producer James Cameron's "Terminator 2"). The moody atmosphere is accentuated by her style, and she does an admirable job of bringing the audience into the action.
Despite the above reservations, "Strange Days" is an engaging and entertaining film. This is a superior action/science fiction movie, but a bit of a failure in the crime drama realm. Nonetheless, I do feel comfortable generally recommending this film to all save those who hate sci-fi or action pics.
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