1999: Lenny (Ralph Fiennes) is a former cop who now makes his money by selling discs that can be inserted into the so-called SQUIDs: machines that can record everything a person experiences and can play it back to somebody else so that they experience it themselves. These recordings are illegal, and often record illegal things happening. Lenny’s life is pretty pathetic, he barely makes enough money to survive and he still dreams of his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis). The only constants in his life are his friends Max (Tom Sizemore) and Mace (Angela Bassett). In the middle of the world preparing for the new millenium, Lenny stumbles upon a conspiracy somehow involving Faith.
Strange Days is a pretty fantastic movie. The cast is great, the ideas interesting and even though the camera moves practically all the time, it never gets too shaky. The weakest point is the script, though – the big twist at the end is way too obvious, most of the characters are a little flimsy and the dialogue hurts a bit sometimes.
I guess it’s to nobody’s surprise that Ralph Fiennes was brilliant in his role (what is surprising though is how much he looks like Bradley Cooper in this movie – only better). Angela Bassett was amazing, too. Juliette Lewis did not convince me (though I usually like her), but I think that’s more the script’s fault than hers, since it fails completely at giving her more character than “ex-girlfriend, possible slut and sex-object”. Her renditions of PJ Harvey’s songs, though, were brilliant.
Talking about the script: As I said before, the characterisation (outside of Neo and Mace) was rather shallow in general, and the dialogue was very stilted from time to time and the big plot-twist was telegraphed from quite a distance. The ending was really bad in its flashiness – the showdown was patently ridiculous. But the basic idea was really interesting and the combination with the political agenda worked very well.
That the film works as well as it does (and it does work very well), despite the short-comings in the script, is mostly due to Kathryn Bigelow and the cinematography. She manages to keep up the tension, the pacing is spot-on and the camera work is brilliantly done, so that even though the camera moves and we get 1st person shots, you never get motion sickness, or even annoyed with it.
And finally, the soundtrack is really nice, as was the production design (the attention to the background and what’s happening there is mind-boggling).
Summarising: One can but wonder why this movie is so little known.