Despite receiving mixed reviews and failing dismally at the box office upon its initial release, Strange Days remains my personal favourite of Kathryn Bigelowâ€™s movies. Even though I cannot deny the charms of Near Dark or Point Break (and I LOVE Point Break) thereâ€™s something so remarkable about this cyberpunk vision of the near future that it gives Strange Days the slight edge over Bigelow’s better known and better received films.
Despite being a little dated today Strange Days remains full of interesting ideas. Ralph Fiennes stars as ex-cop Lenny, a sleaze ball dealer endlessly pining over his ex-girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis). Except Lenny doesnâ€™t deal in traditional drugs, he is instead in the unique business of experiences.
A device known as a SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interface Device) was developed to replace the police wire tap but instead flourished on the black market, allowing users to become fully immersed in the experiences seen and felt by the user who recorded the original tape â€“ whether this be robbing a bank or having sex. Bigelow uses this idea to integrate some fantastic POV camera work into the film, including some amazingly high octane single shot scenes that are truly an achievement both technically and filmically.
Lenny finds himself dragged increasingly deeper into the seedy underground world of â€œblackjackâ€ (snuff) tapes and police cover ups as he battles to save Faith and reveal the truth about the murder of a prominent political commentator and rapper Jericho One (Glenn Plummer), all in the run up to the new millennium in the final days of 1999.
Strange Days utilises POV to fantastic effect including perhaps one of the most extraordinary rape and murder scenes Iâ€™ve ever witnessed where the attacker wires the victim up to himself forcing her to be subjected to her attack both from her own and his perspective making her to experience her own victimization through his eyes. Like a dystopian echo of Michael Powellâ€™s sublime voyeur horror Peeping Tom.
The supporting cast is also strong, Angela Basset kicks ass as Lennyâ€™s only real friend Mace and Michael Wincott is as fantastic as always as Faithâ€™s dodgy record producer boyfriend Philo.
â€œSee… I can get you what you want, I can. I can get you anything, you just have to talk to me, you have to trust me. You can trust me, ’cause I’m your priest, I’m your shrink… I am you main connection to the switchboard of the soul. I’m the magic man… Santa Claus of the subconscious. You say it, you think it, you can have it.â€ â€“ Lenny