Strange Days (1995) – Kathryn Bigelow

My time with the films of James Cameron for the Sci-Fi Chronicles book comes to an end with this film that he penned the script for, and gave to the incredibly talented Kathryn Bigelow to direct.

Ralph Fiennes stars as Lenny Nero, a former cop turned street hustler, with a charming side that can sell anything, on the futuristic streets of Los Angeles, 1999! The big day of 1 January in the year 2000 is days away, and he, along with Mace (Angela Bassett – who gets to be a bad ass) find themselves caught up in conspiracy.

Lenny deals in sensory and visual memories, recorded on a rig… shades of Google Glass and YouTube with sense-surround. But he may be his own best customer, rewatching his past over and over.

When he comes into possession of a recording of torture, rape and murder of a friend of his, Lenny is determined to hunt down the responsible party. No matter where it leads. As the two learn about what is going on around them, they also learn about one another, and when the truth comes out, there are given a moment to change everything, but they’re caught in something so dangerous that neither of them may get out alive.

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There is violence, riots, all manner of trouble, racism, and despite choices in design and stylistic choices, it could be a reflection of our modern society.

Fiennes and Bassett are backed by a solid cast including, Vincent D’Onofrio, Juliette Lewis, William Fichtner, Michael Wincott and Tom Sizemore.  Bigelow, in her usual style, has crafted a tense, well-paced thriller that keeps you on edge, and emotionally involved thanks to her sure direction, strong performances from her leads, and a solid story.

Bigelow has long been a favourite director of mine, she makes strong films, and this one is that. It features a strong visual style, a great concept that plays on the twist of the murder mystery as well as playing with some fun technology.

Bigelow’s films, always seem to have an edge to them, and this one is no different, not pulling any punches in its violence or in its emotional shots, and it’s awesome to see Bassett being the action hero in the film.

Sure, setting the climax against the rolling over of the clock on 31 December 1999 makes the film a little dated, but a lot of it feels like a very realistic take on the world we live in, but for the machine and the ability to record memories. In fact, outside of that, the political settings and civil unrest portrayed seem eerily close to the mark.

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