Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 10/7/99
Lightstorm/20th Century Fox (Fox)
review by Todd Doogan,
special to The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A/C
Specs and Features
145 mins, R, widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered
(layer switch at 1:09:37, in chapter 12), Amaray keep case
packaging, commentary (not full-length) featuring Kathyrn Bigelow's
description of the opening P.O.V. sequence, theatrical trailer and
teaser, 2 deleted scenes, animated film-themed menu screens with
music, scene access (22 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1),
English & French (DD 3.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Close
"Cheer up. The
world's about to end in ten minutes anyway."
Strange Days... you either
love it or hate it. I love it. I thought it was technically
captivating, hugely entertaining, and very original. Heck -- it even
coined a few terms like Y2K, a staple in today's paranoid society.
The acting is all very good, the characters and story are believable
(at least until the end), and I really want one of those
thought-recording SQUID thingies for myself.
Strange Days comes from the
mind of James Cameron, giver of Terminator
and Titanic. But while it may
be from Cameron's mind, the look and feel of the film is all due to
Kathyrn Bigelow (who HAS to be the most attractive woman making
films today. I mean, not only is she beautiful and intelligent, but
she also has an ass-kicking visual flair that anyone would covet).
Strange Days is a simple
futuristic-noir mystery story, that starts like this: two cops chase
a young woman into a subway station. She's frightened, dressed for a
party, but somehow out of her element. The cops (Vincent D'Onofrio
and William Fichtner) are really pissed, but don't really seem to be
after her for a criminal justice reason -- it looks personal. Why
are they after her? What's so distressing to all these people, and
what's that thing underneath the wig D'Onofrio pulls off of the
Those questions do get an answer, but the answer isn't really what
the story is about. It's about the end. It's the last few days
before the year 2000. Our story takes place in Los Angeles, and our
hero is Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), a disgraced cop and seller of
dreams, who currently has a few problems. He's trying to get back
with his aspiring rock star ex-girlfriend (Juliette Lewis), who
doesn't want anything to do with him. He's also trying to make a
quick buck, without asking too many questions about where his "playback"
is coming from. Oh... and some people want to kill him about every
15 minutes. Getting back to the SQUID thingies: in this future, it's
possible to experience other people's lives through their own eyes
and feelings, via a brainwave recording technology developed for the
government. When this technology hit the streets, it became the
newest addictive craze, quickly replacing chemical drugs. Instead of
shooting up, addicts are now jacking in.
When the story begins, Lenny is hustling and dealing, trying to
addict virgin brains and get some new product (new "recordings"
or "playback"). We meet his best friend Max (Tom
Sizemore), and his best girl Mace (Angela Bassett). And learn that
one of the most influential political rappers has just been
assassinated, and that the city of LA is headed for revolt in the
last few days of the current millennium. It just gets bigger from
there, and to go into more detail might tip off too much of the
film's hidden story elements. Let me just say that Fiennes is really
good as Lenny. He's a used car salesman with a heart of gold, and as
we see him jacking in to relive his past, we see a man who wishes he
was anywhere but here. The tender caress of the camera over his face
in these moments is really well done, and conveys much about his
character -- even when he's writhing in pain from what he's seeing.
The movie itself is a wonder to watch. It's utterly fascinating.
The camera tricks, the editing and the directing are all top-notch,
and I marvel each and every time I see it all. The colors in the
film, and the use of light and shadow, are just as impressive. It's
also an intriguing story, ironic in its own way -- these people are
watching life, just as we are watching them. Movies are about seeing
a perspective that's not our own, and this story holds the mirror
back at the audience and really makes you think.
As a DVD, I'm not as impressed as I wanted to be. It's an okay
transfer, aside from moments of edge-enhanced shimmer. The colors
are really pretty sweet actually. But I detected some artifacting in
the picture that isn't just grain, which shocked me considering this
transfer is approved by THX. It looks like a laserdisc transfer, and
I'd bet a dollar it's the same one done for the laserdisc release.
Someday, someone is going to have to explain to me how a years-old "approved"
laserdisc transfer is also pre-approved for DVD. Warner used this
trick of semantics for the Kubrick set, claiming that the transfers
had been personally approved by Kubrick... which was true, but for
laserdisc -- not DVD. And as we know, there's a significant
difference between the two, and the result was a crappy DVD box of
films. Now we have THX-approved laserdisc transfers being turned
into THX-approved DVDs. THX should require that their approval
standards be higher for DVD, otherwise their stamp on a disc is
going to start to mean less and less to consumers.
Sound-wise, the English tracks (DD 5.1 & 3.0) are great. Both
are full of life, and some of the higher charged sounds will blow
you through your recliner. There are a few extras on board as well.
Kathryn Bigelow has a short commentary track and it is
fascinating... except that I liked it a little bit better the first
time I heard it, about three years ago -- ON LASERDISC! Considering
this is THE year for this movie (2000 only happens once, after all),
you'd think Fox might have done a new transfer -- a 16x9 one,
without all that unneeded edge-enhancement, and maybe gotten
together a new, full-length commentary track. I mean, they just took
the laserdisc and put it on DVD, and they left stuff off! Gone is
the Bigelow directed video for Skunk Anansie, and gone are the
storyboards and production art that appeared on side 3 of the
laserdisc special edition. That really pulls my chain. Ggrrr. There
are a few redeeming moments in the extras arena: a couple of deleted
scenes, and the too-cool-for-words teaser trailer. They almost (and
I mean almost) save the DVD from being trashed by me. But not quite.
If you're a fan of the film and don't have it on laserdisc, go
ahead and pick it up on DVD. But if you have a laserdisc player,
then I would seriously suggest you find it on LD -- it's pretty much
the same disc, but with much more fun attached.