Bringing Out the Dead,1999,USA
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Goodman & Patricia Arquette
Film #55 of The December Project
I have always been under the impression that Nicolas Cage posses brilliance as an actor, he just requires a great filmmaker to bring it out. I mean take 'Adaptation.' for example, Cage gives one (or two) of the best performances we have seen thus far in the 21st century, thanks in part to the brilliance of Spike Jonze, a great filmmaker. Just imagine the possibilities of Cage working with the Greatest living filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, well there is no need for imagining as the two teamed together for 'Bringing Out the Dead' back in 1999.
Frank Pierce is a distraught ambulance paramedic working out of New York City. All the years of grueling pain and loosing patients has taken its toll on Frank as he begins seeing haunting visions of patients he has lost.
I am not really sure why it took me so long to get around to seeing this film. I am a huge Martin Scorsese admirer, but I guess the idea of a collaboration with Cage seems slightly strange, I was sure it would be good as I proclaimed in the intro. It wasn't until reading the numerous acclaim for this film on Letterboxd and seeing it ranked amongst Mr Scorsese's finest efforts, that I decided I needed to see the film as soon as possible, I am very glad I did.
'Bringing Out the Dead' is a haunting odyssey through the New York City nightlife, focusing in particular on a haunted medic. I don't think there has ever been another filmmaker that can truly bring New York to life on the screen, quite like Scorsese can. 'Bringing Out the Dead' may be one of the finest examples of that. Director of Photography Robert Richardson, who also worked with Scorsese on 'Casino', truly captures both the beauty and horror of the famous city and gives it a life of its own. The film's tone feels similar to (possibly my all time favorite Scorsese film) 'After Hours'
The film marks the 4th collaboration between Mr Scorsese and Screenwriter Paul Schrader, the two previously worked together on cinematic masterpieces 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull' aswell as 'The Last Temptation of Christ'. The two's work on this film may not be as memorable, but in its own right it is a disturbing and brilliant psychological study. Schrader's script here is so intricate, so engrossing and so viciously intense towards its lead character that it provides for constantly emotive cinema. Schrader uses several motifs throughout the script such as Noel the thirsty drug addict, The Red death drug and Patricia Arquette's changing appearance through each sequence. I also love the fact that the film is almost an anthology film, Frank is accompanied by a different partner on the three nights we focus on him, everything is just brilliantly executed.The film is yet another notch in Schrader's already brilliant career.
Scorsese's direction is as masterful as ever, I think the thing I admire most about the man is his relentless commitment to portraying all sides of character, he does that to damn near perfection here. The use of the progressively intense editing is very well done and shows the build in the mental instability of Frank's character. The scores is also haunting and beautiful.
The performances are pretty great. Cage gives one of his very best showings in this film, proving my theory from the intro, Hes character build is so well done, he starts out as quite and in control before progressing into the crazy Nic Cage we all know and love, he portrayed the disturbance brilliantly.The film consists of a very good supporting cast, John Goodman, my favorite character actor, is as good and entertaining as he always is, hes a brilliant actor and I always love seeing him. Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore are great, and Patricia Arquette wasn't bad.
Before writing the review, I was intending on giving this film 3.5 stars, but after thinking about it a bit more I'm going to bump it up to a 4. This is a fantastic film and psychological character study, Scorsese and Schrader's collaboration once again proves successful, and Cage's performance is fantastic. Is this film amongst Marty's greatest ? not quite, but that really cant be a detriment when he is such a prolific director. This is a film I can highly recommend.