Monday, December 28, 2015

Film Review: Dying of the Light (2014)

Dying of the Light (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Prime
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"The narrative is actually very interesting, especially some of its themes, but the execution is flawed."

Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage), a highly-decorated CIA agent suffering from early stage frontal temporal dementia, spirals into a tailspin when he finds evidence of an old foe's survival...

Dying of the Light is an interesting film with bizarre flaws. The plot follows Evan Lake, who was tortured in Africa by Banir, a terrorist, over 20 years ago. In the present, Evan is diagnosed with a form of dementia. As he stumbles upon news of Banir's potential survival and residence, Evan is considered a liability by the agency. Fortunately, he finds aid from his colleague, Milt (Anton Yelchin). Milt and Evan connect the pieces, then begin tracking Banir. It may sound like a globe-trotting adventure with psychological elements, but it really isn't. The film never actually delves enough into anything it offers, which is incredibly unfortunate. It leads to a simple ending, too – nothing special, really.

Dying of the Light had so much potential. The narrative is actually very interesting, especially some of its themes, but the execution is flawed. At times, you're gripped by  Evan's spiral, then it throws you off with some formulaic scenes that amount to very little. It just doesn't really flow correctly – it feels like it was a coherent film, then it was mashed up and sped up. There are scenes where characters kill, then walk off like nothing. There's a scene where a significant character is shot and Evan walks away like nothing – no reaction whatsoever. It feels like it's lacking weight in most of its scenes. Also, everytime these characters are tailing someone, they stick out like a sore thumb – that's certainly not how you tail someone. Some of the scenes feel very calculated and methodical, others feel like pieces to a different puzzle. I watched the entire film without hating it, but I was certainly disappointed considering the amount of potential we often see throughout the film.

Let's take the acting as an example. I thought Nicolas Cage fit this character rather well. It actually felt like he immersed himself into this character and gave him some life, instead of simply showing up for a check. With the questionable decisions by the filmmakers, Cage's performance is sort of thrown out the window. The rest of the acting was decent – it's got a fair bit of overacting, but nothing horrid. The film looks and sounds decent – nothing bad, nothing extraordinary. The film is written and directed by Paul Schrader. I've read a bit about the troubled production for this film, which is unfortunate. I can see some promise in Schrader's writing and direction. There are remnants here of something immensely interesting, but, as it is, this final product is your run-of-the-mill, soulless thriller.

Overall, Dying of the Light is a decent film. Despite some glaring issues, it's not a horrid experience – it's more of a disappointing film than anything. There are some very interesting bits here and most of the film is at least tolerable. When I wasn't baffled by some of the bizarre character actions, I was moderately entertained. If you need to kill 90 minutes and want a thriller with some very interesting bits, you might enjoy this. Nicolas Cage wasn't half-bad in this, either, so that's something.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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