Bringing Out the Dead

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

With so many good, make that fantastic, movies under his belt, one begins to wonder how he does it. Martin Scorsese has given us classics like “Mean Streets”, “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “GoodFellas”, “Cape Fear” and “Casino” and his latest is no exception to his seemingly endless streak of utterly superb movies. Though Bringing Out the Dead is a very dark movie, as are a lot of Scorcese’s, it was not widely accepted by the mass audiences. Let’s face it, we like to see movies that are uplifting and make us laugh…Bringing Out the Dead is not like that. In much the same manner as he played alcoholic, Ben, in “Leaving Las Vegas”; Nicolas Cage yet again delivers another strong performance in this new role. Cage, one of our finer actors, plays it low key and they have him looking (physically) awful as Frank Pierce, a New York City paramedic. Ok, ok…so the life of a paramedic can’t be that happy, and Bringing Out the Dead shows us just that.

Frank hasn’t saved a life in months, going out and responding to calls every night with either Larry (John Goodman), Marcus (Ving Rhames) or Tom (Tom Sizemore) he just can’t seem to save a life to save his own. Imagine the feeling. Frank, not happy with his current situation or his life right now, has been seeing a ghost of a girl whom he couldn’t save. Her name is Rosa and he sees her face literally everywhere, from a hooker on a street corner, to a strange passer-by. Burnt out is not exactly the way to classify Frank, whose diet consists of bourbon and cigarettes (not exactly part of the four food groups). While responding to a routine call, Frank manages to save a victim and get them to the hospital where they have him on life support, no matter how feeble an attempt it might be. While there, he gets to know the patient’s daughter, Mary (Patricia Arquette) and the two form a very unstable relationship (maybe a metaphor for the father’s current state?). Throughout the movie, we see Frank try and come to terms with his inability to bring life back into those who he can’t save and we see his character deteriorate even more so. It’s this depressing view of not only his life, but those around him that makes the movie feel and look so very bleak.

Getting a little involved with his newfound friend, Frank escorts Mary to a mysterious apartment where she goes to “relax” and not knowing what to expect, it’s not long before he’s in a drug induced coma and hallucinating about all of the ghosts that he’s seeing. It’s this kind of photography and plot that helps explain a little about what Frank is experiencing, but not too much. As with a lot of “ghost stories” we learn that Frank has to make amends and metaphorically speaking “cleanse his soul” for him to get on with his life. It’s Scorecese who leads us down the path, but ultimately we are the ones who witness the resurrection of a troubled spirit.

Brining Out the Dead is one of the finer films that I have had the opportunity to see. Gone from the theaters in a matter of weeks, it was hard to catch, but hopefully it will be given new life (pardon the pun) on DVD. Scorcese delivers another masterpiece and one wonders when his streak will stop. Though all of his movies may not be for you, chances are that at least a few are. One thing is for certain, if you’re a fan of the Scorcese that loves New York City, he’s right back to where he belongs!

Video: How does it look?

To call Bringing Out the Dead anything other than a visual masterpiece is an insult. Scorcese, through most all of his films, has experimented with new and innovative ways to present some of his films. Bringing Out the Dead uses many types of film “tricks” to accomplish different mood swings in the movie. Fast motion, sideways camera angles are just a few. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is a very dark movie, physically dark as well. Frank works the night shift, and hence…most of the movie takes place at night. The 2.35:1 image looks spectacular and, as Paramount has been doing, is enhanced for 16:9 TV’s. No artifacting, nothing wrong with the picture at all it looks as good as the movie.

Audio: How does it sound?

Scorcese also includes a lot of popular music in some of his movies, and this is no exception. From hits from 10,000 maniacs and others, the soundtrack helps keep this movie going in the right direction. A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is used, and to great effect here. Dialogue is clean and well centered with no distortion at all. Surrounds used, especially in some scenes, are absolutely a must. Great job here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are a couple of trailers and something that is very interesting, a 10 minute “Behind the Scenes” look at the making of the film. Interviews with Nicholas Cage and Ving Rhames to name a few, shed a little light on the making of the movie. A feature-length commentary with Martin Scorsese would have been the icing on the cake, but he hasn’t recorded a lot (if any) that I’m personally aware of. The movie itself should be a reward, but the featurette makes it all the more valuable. Highly recommended.

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