There are some roles which actors are born to play. There are some actors for whom roles are specifically written. Then there are those actors who perfectly fit a role you might not think before seeing them in said role would be that perfect fit. Nicholas Cage certainly fills this latter category in Dying of the Light.
I came across this 2014 film, billed as a psychological thriller, while channel surfing. It was about fifteen minutes in, but my TiVo still had those previous fifteen minutes, the description sounded interesting, so I hit record to make sure I got the whole thing, and started from the beginning. While the film has some slow parts, which seems to be such to stretch out the running time to 90 minutes more than anything else, all in all I enjoyed it.
Cage is Evan Lake, a longtime and highly decorated CIA agent. We are introduced to him as he has a flashback to a covert operation in Africa where is captured and tortured by an Islamic terrorist, Muhammad Banir. Among the other tortures, Lake has part of an ear mutilated. An extraction team intervenes before he can be killed, killing several of the terrorists, presumably including Banir. Lake doesn’t believe Banir is dead, and carries this belief with him while he continues working in the Agency for another 22 years. Just as the CIA is made aware of the possibility that Banir may be still alive, Lake learns he has frontotemporal dementia, the side effects of which…well, let’s just say they play perfectly into Nic Cage’s acting abilities and the type of roles he is more well known for.
Milton Schultz, aptly played by Anton Yelchin, is an analyst for the CIA who is a close friend of Lake’s. There is clearly a teacher-protege relationship going on, and Milt is quite fond of Lake. That fondness grows into protection as Lake reveals his condition to Milt. Due to the onset of the dementia, Lake is forcibly retired from the CIA, but with Milt’s help, undergoes one last mission to take out Banir in Africa.
The film’s production value reminded me of Cinemax’s Strike Back series, of which I’m a fan. It’s not big budget, but it gets the job done. The film itself is not without controversy, in that the studio re-edited and scored the film without writer/director Paul Schrader’s permission or input. Cage and Yelchin stood by Schrader in disavowing the finished film, and given the slow and disjointed points in the movie, I can understand why. When as a creative individual you put effort into a project, a project for which you have a distinct vision, and that is taken away from you while you have no legal recourse, well, I can understand Schrader’s frustration. He would go on to recut the movie to as close as possible to his original vision from DVD copies of the workprint. That version of the film, which he called Dark, can presumably be found on BitTorrent sites.
I do not plan to hunt that down, as I do not think it would greatly change my overall impression of the film, nor elevate what I believe is its greatest strength: the relationship between Lake and Milt.
In a world where masculine friendship and filial love has been minimized, it was refreshing to watch one friend go to the lengths Milton does to help someone he cares about, admires, and loves. Time and again, Milt makes sacrifices great and small for Lake, doing what he can to help his mentor fulfill his final mission. The conversations between the two of them are the glue of the film, and the scenes I enjoyed most.
Dying of the Light can be a little slow, it won’t be for everyone, and I was never on the edge of my seat as with some thrillers. But it makes up for its downsides with a story of friendship, sacrifice, and love that I found compelling enough to recommend it for that part of the plot.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MATT DAMON FILM, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, STOP READING. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
In all Hollywood thrillers, there’s a certain suspension of belief the audience is expected to give. And in every movie, there are gaffes, missteps, and mistakes. But the one scene in The Bourne Identity that has always, and continues, with subsequent viewings, to bother me, is the one at the farmhouse, the confrontation between Jason Bourne and Clive Owen’s character, the Professor.
The plot points us to the Professor being one of Bourne’s equals. They’re both from the Treadstone project. They’re both “super weapons” of a kind. They’re both highly trained, and highly skilled. When Eamon’s dog is missing, and Jason realizes a killer is out there waiting for him, he does what we expect him to do: take the fight to the killer. It’s here the writers take the easy way out.
If the Professor was as highly skilled and as highly trained as we’ve been led to believe up to this point Treadstone agents are, he would never do the following:
Jason doesn’t know the Professor’s location. Given the layout of the farmhouse and the surrounding area, he suspects, but he doesn’t know. When he runs out into the trees from the farmhouse, the Professor attempts a shot, and after missing, decides to come down from his perch on the hill? Why give up the high ground, and the sun behind you? Your target is still below you, still within range, just hidden in the trees. Shift your position, attempt to reacquire, but you DON’T COME DOWN FROM ON HIGH.
And as he gives up the high ground, he simultaneously gives up sound suppression on a firearm? Jason Bourne may be the best Treadstone produced, but he still wouldn’t be able to track the shots by sound, even if he suspected the Professor’s hide at the top of the hill. Not at that range.
Finally, after coming down from the hill, the Professor inexplicably takes the only sighting device on the rifle off—why no iron sight backups? He then decides, as the birds Jason sent into flight with a shotgun blast whirl noisily about, to put down the weapon that could reach to any edge of the big clearing they’re in, and take up a small pistol with a more limited range and fewer available rounds.
I just can’t buy it. The film’s technical advisor(s) really let the production down in this area, and allowed the writers a cheap and easy way out to put down the other Treadstone agent on Jason’s trail. Way, way easier than it should have been. At least Castel lost a straight-up, one-on-one fight with Bourne. It is, for me, a thoroughly disappointing scene in an otherwise enjoyable (if imperfect) action thriller.
I’m glad this story is getting this sort of wide exposure, even if it’s at the hands of Michael Bay.
I will not get my hopes up. I will not get my hopes up. I will not get my hopes up. I will not get my hopes up…
Having never seen the other two Fantastic Four movies, and having no real desire to rectify that situation, this, on the other hand, looks pretty good.
ANT-MAN - Official Trailer #2 (2015) Paul Rudd Marvel Superhero Movie HD
“If she says ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’ you better do what she says.”
This is relevant to my interests.
Check out the official poster for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age Of Ultron”!
Gosh, I love this movie.
‘Blade Runner’ production design art by Syd Mead.
Captain America: The First Avenger Trivia Click gifs for more trivia in captions
David Mack art for the Winter Soldier credits
Cary Grant’s hair and makeup test for North by Northwest (1959). The card reads “HAIR MUSSED + DRUNK”.
Because at some point, everyone needs dancing baby Groot.
#ThisDayInStarWars 1982 - Star Wars is re-released for the fourth time in 1,070 theaters across the US; debuting the trailer for Revenge of the Jedi.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - Official Teaser Trailer [HD]
Captain America The Winter soldier End Credits.
David Mack did the illustrations.
The Equalizer is one of the handful of shows, along with The Sandbaggers and The Rockford Files amongst others, that had a huge influence on me growing up, and that still leak into my work in both large and small ways.
I knew when this was announced that it would bear little to no resemblance to the original Edward Woodward series, but seeing this first trailer, I’m tentatively optimistic that they seem to have captured at least some of the feel of the original series, and there’s at least two callbacks to the show that I spotted. Loved the appearance of McCall’s weapon room, for instance (and its existence gives some measure of lie to his monologue at the end of the trailer).
Also, if Melissa Leo is playing Control, I will be in heaven.
I have fond memories of watching The Rockford Files, in re-runs, with my grandfather. I came to The Equalizer late in the series, but really enjoyed it.
This looks like it’s got some potential.