EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|BRAINSTORM (director: Douglas Trumbull; screenwriters: Robert Stitzel/Philip Frank Messina/story by Bruce Joel Rubin; cinematographer: Richard Yuricich; editors: Freeman Davies/Edward Warschilka; music: James Horner; cast: Christopher Walken (Michael Brace), Natalie Wood (Karen Brace), Louise Fletcher (Lillian Reynolds), Cliff Robertson (Alex Terson), Joe Dorsey (Hal Abramson), Bill Morey (James Zimbach), Jordan Christopher (Gordy Forbes), Donald Hotton (Landan Marks), Alan Fudge (Robert Jenkins); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Douglas Trumbull; MGM/UA; 1983)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A mad scientist film with four sound reasons for seeing it:
1-It's Natalie Wood's last film
due to her untimely drowning death in 1981, on the Thanksgiving
weekend, before completion of the film (but her part remains intact).
2-It has a great sci-fi premise. 3-It has great state of the art
visuals. 4-Louise Fletcher
steals the pic with a spirited performance as the workaholic
chain-smoking scientist who will not be bullied by government
interference. The downer part
is that the mumbo jumbo science becomes numbing, the melodramatics are
a bore, Christopher Walken is
a versatile actor but he's unconvincing as a brilliant scientist, and too many of the main
characters are dull.
Director Douglas Trumbull ("Silent Running"), noted special effects
wizard, keeps it better than most big budget sci-fi films, but can't
stop it from seeming implausible. The filmmaker was so disheartened
with the financially strapped studio for not backing him, after they
promised to install in theaters his invention of Showscan-- “a high-speed 70mm
motion-picture photography and
projection technique--that this
was the last film Trumbull directed. He opted instead to shift his
career in a new direction. Showscan is fundamentally a giant screen
process that creates the illusion of
three-dimensionality,” but the studio complained it would cost too much
to put in theaters and went back on their word (the Showscan used was
only for the "memory" sequences).
Genius research scientists, Dr.
Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) and Dr. Lillian Reynolds
(Louise Fletcher), work in a private research lab in North Carolina and
together have invented a breakthrough device in communication; one with
tremendous potential for even greater possibilities, that by using a
headset with sensor chips one can vicariously experience other people’s
feelings and perceptions and transfer it to videotape.
Michael's personal life is going
through a bumpy period, as he's estranged from his wife, the lab's
product designer, Karen (Natalie
Wood). There's also tension at the workplace, as their smoothy
connected boss, Alex Terson (Cliff Robertson), has secretly received
government funds for the project the last ten years, and now the
sinister government men in suits insist on using this device for
military purposes and Alex seemingly has no choice but to agree.
Government spy, hack scientist, Dr. Landan Marks (Donald
Hotton), is assigned to work
with the crack research team. Karen
wants no part of using the device for destructive government purposes
or have anything to do with Marks, while Michael tries to take a more
conciliatory approach. When Karen suspiciously dies, as it seems the
device can cause death, Michael
wants to study the brainwaves of Karen to find out the cause but is
denied so by the boss. The
idealistic scientist gets back together with his wife after he presents
her with a videotape of good-time memories, during their happy days of
marriage, courtesy of the device. Now the rejuvenated Michael only
wants this device to help mankind, but his devious boss and several of
the sinister-looking government reps think otherwise and Michael finds
himself threateningly at odds with them.
portends to be cutting-edge science, as writers Robert Stitzel and Philip Frank Messina dig
hard to get the most out of Bruce
Joel Rubin's story. But it never becomes a top-level thriller nor
illuminating as a sci-fi work; it's just a good idea for a film that
never fully develops but is enjoyable for its outstanding special
REVIEWED ON 7/5/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ