Sunday, 29 March 2015

Dying of the Light

Things have been going in a strange direction for Nicolas Cage as of late. The recent Left Behind was possibly the worst film he’s ever been involved in. Out now on DVD and Blu-ray, does Dying of the Light fare any better? 

Before we get stuck into Dying of the Light, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. The elephant called Paul Schrader. Behind the scenes, Dying of the Light was in trouble for a while. Reports of the film being taken away from director Schrader’s control led to him and the film’s stars publicly removing themselves from the film. OK, these sort of problems usually spell disaster for a film. But some of the greatest films of all time had difficult productions, like Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now or Jaws. On these films it’s not obvious that there were difficulties behind the scenes. You wouldn’t be able to tell unless you looked into it. Is Dying of the Light one of these films? Of course it isn’t! Strap yourself in for a Cagey ride. 

The premise of Dying of the Light (the title a reference to the famous Dylan Thomas poem) is original and actually very interesting. Evan Lake (Cage) a CIA agent with a very serious form of dementia vows to track down Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim), a terrorist who caused him a world of pain decades earlier. The CIA say he’s not worth taking out but to Lake it’s personal so he sets out on a personal revenge mission without the help of the agency. So the premise is cool, but they don’t do anything with it! It’s said that the dementia will cause visions and random mood swings. Having the sufferer of said dementia being played by an actor with the off-the-wall style of Cage, and Dying of the Light should have been one of the most amazing things mankind ever created.

The actors are generally good however. Whilst Cage doesn’t get the opportunity to really let loose like in the good old days, he’s a hell of a lot more energetic than he’s been in recent films (*cough* Left Behind *cough*). Cage’s trusty protégé is played by Anton Yelchin doing what can only be described as a ‘gritty’ accent. But he’s good and does the majority of the running in the movie. Karim is spectacularly hammy as the terrorist Banir. It’s pretty fun whenever he’s on screen and his and Cage’s showdown together is batshit crazy. 

The tone of Dying of the Light is like Lake’s moods, all over the damn place. One minute you’re watching a run-of-the-mill thriller/espionage movie, nothing special about it. Then something crazy happens. Like Yelchin’s character just slits a dude’s throat. The camera lingers on the blood pouring out of this guy’s neck and then no one makes a big deal out of it. They just carry on with the boring stuff.  Another moment sees Cage stick his finger right into someone’s eye like he’s popping out the plastic pieces for an Airfix model. Unfortunately these moments are too few and far between to recommend the film purely on the surprise factor.

In yet another connection with Cage’s snoozefest Left Behind, this film suffers from the same preachiness as that religious misfire. This time it’s politics and ‘Murica. And boy is it in your face. Numerous shots see Cage framed by an American Flag, but wait! This flag has a hole burned into the middle! What could it mean?! Aside from the obvious symbolism, the movie often deviates into angry rants about American ideals and problems within the CIA and other institutions. The whole film could have been this thriller with an allegorical edge, a movie with brains behind it. But any hope it had of making these lofty themes mean anything disappears in the last ten minutes as the film becomes a badly made action film.

What could have been a smart, topical movie becomes yet another forgettable thriller. The difference here being that it leaves you so very enraged about what the movie almost was. Fans of Cage will enjoy it however for the committed performance he gives. Everyone else might want to let it go gentle into that good night.

Dying of the Light gets a mediocre 2/5.


Jack Bumby

Dying of the Light at CeX

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