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Everyone knows this was Natalie Wood's last film, and that some of her
scenes were filmed after her death with a stand-in you only see from
behind. Director Donald Trumball, best known for his special effects
work in Blade Runner, Close Enounters, and Star Trek, chose this time
to build his story on plot and character development, a good choice
given the enormous talent he had to work with. Trumball's battle with
studio execs to finish the film after Wood's death, rather than claim
the insurance proceeds and call the film off, ended his career in
Hollywood, but assured that this gem would not be lost. It is somewhat
ironic that Natalie's swan song should be a sci-fi movie, since she was
hardly known for work in the genre, but she brings a grace and charm,
as well as depth and beauty, to the genre that is usually lacking.
Most sci-fi films based on technology don't age well, and there are
times where this is no exception. The idea of recording on tape, let
alone making tape loops, must seem like wax cylinder recordings to
today's MP3 generation. The tapes themselves were props borrowed from a
film being shot nearby, and that film was itself a dismal failure. But
the concept is timeless, and so well done that, all in all, the film
still works as well as it did in 1983.
Lesser screenplays would have been content with the main story line;
scientists invent a way to record brainwaves and play them back for a
real life out of body experience, and for just such a stinker, check
out Strange Days. But then along comes the incomparable, utterly
fabulous Louise Fletcher, who, as one of the co-inventors of the
aforementioned device, records her death when she suffers a heart
attack while working late one night. For the rest of the film, people
are either trying to play the tape or prevent others from playing it.
Meanwhile, the technology gets hijacked by two-dimensional government
lackeys trying to exploit the weapons potential of the invention.
One can easily pick out scenes of this movie to vilify or exalt, all
these years later, and any object viewed over time eventually has a
vanishing point. The almost slapstick scene where the assembly robots
go berserk is one example of a scene that, while consistent with its
contemporaries, is silly today. The death scene, though much maligned,
is equally misunderstood, and provides the metaphysical underpinnings
that elevate Brainstorm above mere gadget flicks. Brainstorm is about
exploring experience, life, love, even death, from the point of view of
others, and Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher allows us to do so
through her consummate skill in presenting a death scene of sufficient
awe and wonder to warrant exploration.
If you want to find out what else happens, watch the film, but when you
do, don't ignore the beautiful, delicate interplay between Christopher
Walken and Natalie Wood. Their careening relationship seems somehow
tied to the invention they helped make, and there are sequences so
beautiful that I sometimes take out the DVD just to marvel at them.
Despite changing styles in special effects, this is a timeless and
beautiful story that transcends the genre and, with Walken, Wood and
Fletcher, becomes more than just a story about shiny gold tapes that
record brain waves. It's more about immovable objects and irresistible
forces and what happens when they collide. Intrigued? Good. Go watch
Tags for Brainstorm Full Movie
, Cliff Robertson
, Louise Fletcher
, Natalie Wood
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