Bringing Out The Dead

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman
Director: Martin Scorsese

Heralding the reunion of director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader ‘Bringing Out The Dead’ depicts three particularly eventful days in the life of a New York city paramedic. The film is infused with a streak of black comedy and both the characterisation and philosophy are reminiscent of the likes of ‘Mash’ or ‘Catch 22′. The pace of the film veers from breakneck to pedestrian, and all of the main characters teeter on the edge of insanity.

The film’s protagonist is paramedic Frank (Nicolas Cage), a typically Schradean individual: disaffected at work, he feels an intangible sense of yearning as evidenced by an intermittent voice-over commentary. Frank’s abilities at work have been deteriorating ever since he failed to save the life of Rosa, a young girl that collapsed on the street the previous year. He’s caught in a continuous loop of bleakness and insanity: working nights, having to respond to calls from run-down tenements peopled by drunks and junkies. Frank’s also having trouble sleeping and he is haunted by the memory of Rosa who’s image he sees everywhere on the streets.

After transferring a cardiac arrest victim to hospital Frank strikes up a rapport with the patients daughter Mary (Patricia Arquette). She is one of a series of characters that periodically reappear during the film as Frank descends into his insomniac existence, beset by moral dilemmas and striving to find reason in all he sees. Scorsese manages to take the edge off Frank’s despair with a combination of dark humour, a spasmodically frenetic pace, kinetic camerawork, and a blaring soundtrack.

The knife-edge existence of Frank and his fellow paramedics provides them with an adrenaline fix which is just as potent as their junkie patients’ narcotics, and ultimately ‘Bringing Out The Dead’ is an impressive testimony to the spiritual rejuvenation realised in the cathartic co-existence of apparently disparate individuals.

4 out of 6 stars

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