Lake is the CIA’s top motivational speaker. He also happens to be played by Nicolas
Cage, so hold on tight, this will be a bumpy ride. While a station chief, Lake
was captured and tortured by a notorious terrorist, but he lived to tell the
tale, with honor. Fatefully, just as the physical and mental symptoms of a rare
neurological disease start plaguing Lake, he gets a line on his old tormentor,
Muhammad Banir. He might as well get his revenge or die trying in Paul Schrader’s
Dying of the Light (trailer here)—although Schrader
himself would reportedly prefer not to be so closely identified with the final producer-cut
product. Regardless, it opens this Friday in New York.
year Lake gives a pep talk to the new recruits undergoing basic training and he
projects to the back row of the theater—the theater next door. This might be
his last hurrah. The agency just got wind his second opinion came back positive
(in a bad way). However, his protégé, Milton Schultz has some interesting news.
The rare pharmaceutical used to treat Banir’s degenerative disease has
strangely surfaced during an incident in Romania. Yes, both men are slowly
dying, betrayed by their own bodies.
the Agency still insists Banir is dead, Lake goes rogue, burning every possible
bridge behind him. Yet, despite his increasingly erratic and anti-social
behavior, he can count on the help of the loyal Schultz and Michelle Zuberain,
an ambiguously close former Euro colleague. Meanwhile, the dastardly CIA bureaucrats
keep trying to send Lake doctors and counselors.
Schrader and several cast members are unhappy with the current theatrical cut,
but it is hard to see why. It is a reasonably serviceable thriller with a bit
of style here and there. Let’s be frank—this is latest film from the director
of The Canyons and the star of Left Behind. It’s just not that bad,
especially compared to some of the recent gems in the Cage filmography.
Frankly, it probably doesn’t even crack the bottom twenty (hello, The Wicker Man, Stolen, Seeking Justice,
Trespass, Season of the Witch?)
that as it may, Cage sure does his thing as the tightly wound Lake. The man
just doesn’t seem to have an inside voice. When he gorges on scenery, it is
like watching a bull in a china shop, but at least he is nowhere near as embarrassing
as Meryl Streep unconscionably overacting in Osage County. As Schultz, Anton Yelchin looks thoroughly freaked
out, probably because he was. At least Irène Jacob does her best to class-up
the joint as Zuberain.
Dying wrings plenty of
atmosphere out of its Romanian locales and surprisingly, it is almost
sympathetic in its treatment of the CIA (perhaps that is why some principals
are unhappy). Say what you will, but they are dashed indulgent of Lake. In its
current state, the film also portrays the Islamist terrorists as unambiguously
vicious extremists. It is far from perfect and nobody would describe it as high
art, but Dying of the Light is compulsively
watchable, building a fair degree of suspense in its weird way. Recommended for
fans of Cage’s flaring nostrils, it opens this Friday (12/5) in New York, at
the AMC Empire.
Labels: CIA on film, Nicolas Cage, Paul Schrader