Previous Posts: Movie Reviews: October 2015

Movie Reviews: Strange Days

Twenty years on, James Cameron's (and Kathryn Bigelow's) millennial cyberpunk masterwork still packs the kinds of wallops mainstream filmmaking has retreated from in near-panic



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I originally wrote this review in 2002, for an earlier incarnation of this site. Due to the various changes of digital address for my Web hosting, it vanished, although I miraculously had a backup copy in my archives. I've unearthed it and republished it here, with some editing and expansion, for the 20th anniversary of the movie's release.

There is a standing rule in movies that you do not unnecessarily date your film. Putting a specific future date on a story, without some historical pretext for doing so, makes it into an antique before its time. Strange Days takes place on the last few days of the year 1999 (I won't say "the last few days of the 20th century", for obvious reasons), when violence and anarchy are seething in the streets of Los Angeles, but if anything, its pre-millennial tension feels even less dated in these times of post-millennial, post 9/11 tension. It's one of the many signs this movie was too far ahead of its time for its own good.

Many groundbreaking films don't get the audience they deserve the first time out. Critics largely trashed Strange Days for its confrontational graphic violence; audiences were either scared or confused by its fulminating story of racism and underbelly paranoia. At least one web reviewer wrote a scathing dissection of it from a Bad Movies We Love point of view. I admired it instantly when I first saw it in a packed theater on opening night, and I've become even more of an evangelist for the film since. It is far from perfect — what movie is? — but the good parts of it have remained so prescient, it's no wonder it outlasted its moment in time.

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Tags: Angela Bassett dystopia James Cameron Juliette Lewis Kathryn Bigelow movies Ralph Fiennes review science fiction technology



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This page is an archive of entries in the Movie Reviews category from October 2015.

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