Dying of the Light (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, Alexander Karim, Irene Jacob, Aymen Hamdouchi, Claudius Peters, Adetomiwa Edun, Robert G. Slade, and Derek Ezenagu.
Paul Schrader, best known for writing controversial scripts like: Affliction, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Taxi Driver, has once again found himself swimming in a pool of controversy. Dying of the Light, was supposed to be about the dark journey of Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage), a veteran CIA operative suffering from dementia who has been forced to retire. When his protégé Milton Schultz (Anton Yelchin) discovers that his former boss’s arch-nemesis has resurfaced, Lake goes off on a journey in pursuit of his enemy.
Paul Schrader has been in the film industry well over forty years and in that time I think this marks the first incident where he is asking his audience to not see his film. Not that the film is horrible or anything like that. Dying of the Light, according to Schrader, was taken from him. So the cut audiences will see December 5th will not reflect the edit he had in mind. There are other articles that outline Schrader actually quitting the film and leaving an un-scored, un-mixed work print behind.
How was the film? Academy Award Winning Actor Nicolas Cage, has turned in some very interesting roles over the last ten years. Knowing Harrison Ford was originally going to play this role would suggest a pretty solid film. In this case, there are two things to be considered. There is Cage’s performance and the over all body of the film. From a performance perspective, Cage delivers a very decent job. Once the journey begins, he comes alive and manages to get through some very rough moments. Yelchin’s performance was fairly strong as well. The problem with Cage’s character is the whole issue of the Dementia. Most of the situations Cage ends up in are fairly believable. The problem for me is how the Dementia is dealt with. Instead of it being a major obstacle for him while trying to complete his mission, it comes off as a distraction.
Watching Cage scrap and engage terrorists again and again, makes me think Schrader was trying to deliver a film much like Taken. The bigger problem is how the film tends to drag in spots. Editing could play a part here as well. Cage is hunting down terrorist Muhammed Banir (Alexander Karim), a man who was thought dead 20 years ago. This one last mission type story plays out like a video game from the 80’s. Considering we have terrorists engaging in horrific acts daily, you would think Banir would be more scary. For me this is where things get shaky. The fear factor is missing and Cage tends to just move through this role instead of sell it. In the end, Cage gets his man in a very brutal way. For a story of this type I expected to see a deeper tale unwind… more obstacles and the Dementia setting him back in major ways. This was a case of big movie attempt not reaching the goal.
You also have to consider the fact that this version of the edit is not the one Schrader planned on delivering. Which makes me hope his version will become available so we can take a look at both and decide which one is better.
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