johnlink ranks DYING OF THE LIGHT (2014)

Watched this while sitting on a blanket with a propped up pillow in the bathtub of a hotel room while my kids slept soundly in the room next door. I have to say that I’ve never watched a movie in that particular way before. Nicholas Cage seems like a logical hero to cheer for in such a setting.


I watched DYING OF THE LIGHT (2014) on 4.21.16. It was my first viewing of the film.

When you learn that DYING OF THE LIGHT was stolen from writer/director Paul Schrader in post production, it makes more sense. This is not a horrendous or unwatchable movie, it is just a soulless one. And that is an odd charge to make about a movie by the guy who did TAXI DRIVER. But Schrader, along with cinematographer Gabriel Kosuth, held a strong vision for this movie. They just never got to finish it.

The story concerns a former CIA field agent relegated to his desk, Evan Lake (Nicholas Cage). He was tortured by a man decades prior, Banir (Alexander Karim), and Lake never believed the story that Banir perished during his own rescue. Now close to retirement and facing soon-to-be-crippling dementia, Lake is given a last chance to track down Banir and settle the score. He is aided by fellow CIA operative Schultz (Anton Yelchin).

Schrader and Kosuth had the idea that color would play a major role in this film. With the subject being dark and the climax being less than ideal for all the characters involved, the two wanted to infuse the movie with distinctive colors to help add to the growing confusion and bleak outlook held by Lake.

It would be interesting to see what they wanted. Because the movie would certainly look much less generic and unimaginative. DYING OF THE LIGHT has the look of a weekly cop show on TV. Muted colors, not much in the way of interesting editing, and a whole lot of blandness.

But color alone wouldn’t necessarily fix a script which doesn’t land with a ton of strength. Some of the dialogue feels underdeveloped – particularly where minor characters are involved – and there are two separate major plot developments which occur as a result of an untrained Banir operative realizing that trained law officers are observing them. Both of those guys run, and both die. It isn’t lazy, per se, but it is an odd way to drive ending of the first act and the start of the third act, respectively.

Cage is inexplicably over the top in a scene at Langley with trainees. There really is no part of his character after which explains why he yells and screams like Castor Troy in FACE/OFF (other than, you know, he’s Nicholas Cage). If it is supposed to foreshadow the mood swings of his dementia, there is no reason why the guy who called him in to give the speech acts as though this is the same speech he gives annually.

It’s all a bit odd, disjointed, and underwhelming. Again, it would be interesting to see what Schrader intended to have for us. But as it is, this is a movie not worth journeying with.




~ by johnlink00 on April 21, 2016.

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