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Strange Days

Entry updated 16 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1995). Universal Pictures presents a Lightstorm Entertainment production. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks. Cast includes Angela Bassett, Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore and Michael Wincott. 145 minutes. Colour.

In the last days of 1999, after Los Angeles (see California) has become a no man's land, a trafficker in bootleg recordings of first-person experiences is caught up in a dangerous conspiracy after chancing on a recording of a murder.

Cameron's strongest writing in the genre, a long-form "scriptment" fleshed out into a finished screenplay by Cocks after Cameron's commitment to True Lies and Spider-Man precluded further work on the project, is forcefully realized by his former wife Bigelow, who had urged him to turn his original 1985 five-page outline into a script in the first place. A product of the original Cyberpunk era, the concept hooked into Cameron's subsequent preoccupations with Technologies of immersion, their ownership and their victims that would shortly produce the first draft of Avatar, and the film presents an unflattering view of the Media Landscape as a Drugs economy and its consumers as junkies for vicarious forms of banned and taboo experience. Clever plot use is made of the serial-killer POV "playback" sequences, ingeniously staged and filmed with long handheld shots and disguised cuts, and duly tutted over by the more morally vertebrate characters; and while the deliberately anticlimactic revelations about the killer's identity and the nature of the conspiracy make for a difficult ending, both filmmakers are at the top of their game and the story is busy with twists and action beats. Nevertheless, the downbeat Near Future setting and challenging interrogation of audience scopophilia did not play well at the box office, and the film remains Cameron's only flop. [NL]


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