Sunday, March 08, 2009

"Bringing Out the Dead" (1999) - Movie Review

New York City, wet streets, insomniac, junkies, dirts from the ditches, surreal characters, blooming lights and Martin Scorsese, now you have the recipe for a beautiful film even if it parallels his other movies. This got a bonus with Nicolas Cage as the burning out paramedic Frank Pierce servicing the bodies of the destitute, careless and plainly irresponsible people in “Bringing Out the Dead”, movie adapted from the novel of the same name by Joe Connelly. Sweeten that deal with a screenplay by Paul Schrader. There are only next to nothing possibility of this film being even a little bit bad. This is umpteenth time Scorsese is giving something perfect.

In the three nights of marching into the roads of hell, Frank Pierce gathers himself to face his ghosts. One prominent face haunts him forever and it is getting very frequent. A while ago he was not able to save a girl named Rose (Cynthia Roman). Why of all many dying people does Rose stand out? It might be because that is where he questioned his competency for his job. He gets guilt get into him turning into fear. He is having a tough time sleeping, eating but not drinking though which is the only thing keeping him see the dark roads.

In this span of three nights he partners up with three colleagues. Larry (John Goodman), Marcus (Ving Rhames) and Tom (Tom Sizemore). All three projecting this job in different directions of their own but definitely adding the eccentricity driven by it. Each are on their heels trying to lighten up this cleaning job of dirty mess. The atmosphere of the ER is suffocating. The gates to the salvation i.e. treatment is guarded by a mean and hard man Griss (Afemo Omilami) while the hospital fills up like an open cup on a pouring solid rain. It is waiting to break loose any moment but somehow the ship sails through. How does one work in this place and go home for a nice meal and a sleep? There is the admitting nurse who makes it a definite point to ask why they should treat a drug addict, a suicide-monger, drunkard and every craziest thing one could get them into. When they openly attempt to abuse and annihilate their body and soul, what is the need for its retrieval from the mouths of death? Insensitive to ask this question, may be but wait till you see the film and you can empathize with their feeling.

Only Scorsese can admire the beauty of this wretched situations into a glimpse of aesthetics and art. Not that he glorifies it or exploits it but finds a rhythm to get disgusted by the situation but appreciative of what the director portrays out of it. In that hard line stands Scorsese wondering his perspective and how the audience perceive through it. Who better can play this trembling and destructing character Frank other than Nicolas Cage. He is droopy with the prominent dark circles below his eyes. Any moment he is ready to fall on his knees and hit the ground on his face accepting the force of gravity to lay him to rest. He carries the weight of the beings he has saved, lost and the one talks in front of him. He begins the day on the surface of the water and steps down towards slow and accepting drowning. Yet beyond this consideration we see him to be capable of handling himself. Any other character we would have wanted that person to get help but not Frank. Not because he is a medic but in those visions of calmness and chaos, there is an assurance of knowing everything and dealing it.

With the stamp on selection of songs and scores, “Bringing Out the Dead” of course runs parallel to the lonely cab nights by Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”. And from the same screen writer it sees the New York City’s neighbourhood seething agony, pain and frustration into many but cannot embody that control over it. They put that feeling through characters in their films. We laugh at the miseries of these body savers while laugh more when they refer patients with their way of jokes. Will I be thrilled to hear those when my loved ones or me being in the bed? Not before, but now, I guess I can and smile about it.

Frank Pierce begins to extend himself to a patient’s daughter Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette). She is the daughter who has not spoken with her father, the patient for three years. And her conflicts with the life and death towards altering views and situations is another dimension Frank seem to thoroughly know but likes to hear from her this time around. Amongst the surplus faces of Rose in the pedestrians and victims, Frank slowly but clearly seeing the brink of his sanity. We are so in sense of his ordeal that when a drug man offers a pill to help Frank relax, we want him to take it. We need him to get a sleep some how because he needs it and deserves it or may be we might not want him losing it over our cardiac arrest.


Karthik said...

i dont know when reading the review i was comparing with TAXI driver and u have rightly mentioned that too...:)

Ashok said...

It is unavoidable to watch this film without that in back of the mind but truly a great film, both are.