Sunday, December 22, 2013
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and screenplay by W. Peter Iliff from a story by Iliff and Rick King, Point Break is the story of a rookie FBI agent who goes undercover as a surfer where he suspects that the group of surfers he befriends are the notorious bank robbers he’s after. The film is an exploration into loyalty and one man’s fascination with the surfing culture as he is intrigued by this group’s ideals. Starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, James LeGros, and John C. McGinley. Point Break is a wild yet thrilling film from Kathryn Bigelow.
The film is a simple story about a former college football star who has become a FBI agent as he investigates a series of bank robberies held by four men wearing masks of former U.S. presidents. Taking on a theory about his partner who claims that the robbers are surfers, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) goes into the surfing scene where he learns to surf as he befriends some surfers while trying to find out who are the bank robbers. It’s a film where this young agent becomes a surfer to find some bank robbers where one of them in this free-spirited man named Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) could be one of those men. Eventually, there comes this conflict between the two men not just towards each other but also internal conflict as they have this respect for each other but are also men who could be something else.
W. Peter Iliff’s screenplay explores this complexity between these two different men where Utah is this straight-laced young man who was once a top quarterback for Ohio State whose knee injury has him doing something else by becoming a FBI agent. Teaming with the eccentric veteran Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) who is convinced the robbers are surfers, Utah uses his youth to infiltrate the surfer scene despite his inexperience where he is aided by Tyler (Lori Petty) who teaches him the basics as they later become lovers. Though Utah’s inexperience in the field including a raid that seemed to go well until some truths emerge where Pappas has to defend him against their hard-ass superior Ben Harp (John C. McGinley). When Utah befriends Bodhi, he sees someone who lives on the fringes of the world as he is this outsider who lives by his own rules while he is extremely free on the wave with his fellow surfers.
Bodhi is a very complex individual where he is a man that lives a certain lifestyle while there’s also something about him that raises Utah’s suspicions. Even as Utah learns more about these bank robbers who only do their jobs in the summer and only take money out of the cash registers instead of the vaults while throwing the dye-pack money into the air. Among these theories that Pappas presented to Utah has him thinking that Bodhi could be one of the robbers where an encounter with one of the robbers wearing a Ronald Reagan mask creates this internal conflict in not just Utah but also the man in the mask. The third act does play into Utah finally meeting the robbers who are proven to be these thrill-seekers who aren’t robbing banks for money but to fight against the system that Utah stands for prompting him to prove that he isn’t some typical FBI agent.
Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is very high-octane in not just the scenes involving surfing and sky diving but also in some of the moments involving the robberies and raids. Much of it is presented with a sense of style as the robberies are shown with some hand-held cameras and a frenetic energy that makes the audience aware of what is going on and how they’re doing it in the span of just 90 seconds. Though it is an action film, Bigelow knows when to slow things down for the dramatic moments where it’s mostly low-key and to the point so that the characters can get to know one another as it includes this amazing tracking shot of Utah’s arrival into the FBI building where he is being briefed by Harp which last about a few minutes.
The surfing scenes are just truly exhilarating to look at in not just its use of slow-motion but also the atmosphere it is presented to showcase a sense of thrill and peacefulness that occurs when one is riding on a wave. The direction has Bigelow be on the water and at the waves to showcase the intensity of the surfing where Utah finds some freedom there but also that sense of danger. Even in the skydiving scene where Utah has to take part of it as the camera is right on the air where there is that sense of the unknown. Especially in the way Utah and Bodhi sort of bond through these adventures as Bigelow isn’t afraid to hint an air of homoeroticism that is lurking towards these two men which adds that complexity to the film. Overall, Bigelow creates a very exciting and fun film about a young FBI agent who befriends a free-spirited thrill-seeker.
Cinematographer Donald Peterman does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its sunny look of the exterior scenes in the beaches and locations in Los Angeles to some of the scenes set at night including the nighttime surfing sequence. Editor Howard L. Smith does brilliant work with the film‘s stylized editing with its jump-cuts for some of the film‘s action scenes to its usage of slow-motion for much of the film‘s surfing scenes. Production designer Peter Jamison, along with art directors Pamela Marcotte and John Huke and set decorator Linda Spheeris, does fantastic work with the look of the homes that Bodhi lives in as well as the FBI building that Utah and Pappas work at.
The sound work of Michael “Gonzo” Gandsey is superb for its mixing and layering of sounds from the way waves sound to the moments in the robberies and shootouts. The film’s music by Mark Isham is wonderful for its mixture of rock and ambient music to play into some of the excitement of the surf as well as some of the film‘s action scenes while music supervisors Sharon Boyle, Gary Goetzman, and Kathy Nelson create a wild mix of music ranging from rock and hip-hop with music from acts like Ice-T, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Concrete Blonde, Ratt, Sheryl Crow, Love, Public Image Ltd., L.A. Guns, and several others.
The casting by Sharon Bialy and Richard Pagano is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small appearances from Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist Anthony Keidis, Chris Pedersen, Dave Olson, and Vincent Klyn as a surfer group that Utah suspects whom Bohdi also dislikes, Julian Reyes and Daniel Beer as a couple of fellow FBI agents, Lee Tergesen as a non-surfing friend of Bodhi in the mysterious Rosie, and Tom Sizemore in a cameo appearance as an undercover DEA agent. The trio of Bojesse Christopher, John Philbin, and James LeGros as Bodhi’s fellow surfer friends are terrific with LeGros as the real standout as the more reserved member of the group in Roach. John C. McGinley is fantastic as Utah and Pappa’s head Ben Harp as this very by-the-books leader who is also a fucking asshole who doesn’t really like Utah and Pappa over their unconventional tactics.
Lori Petty is wonderful as Tyler as an experienced surfer who is a friend of Bodhi who falls for Utah as she starts to question into what he really does. Gary Busey is marvelous as Angelo Pappas as this old-school yet eccentric FBI agent who is very unconventional in his tactics while not wanting to take shit from anyone. Keanu Reeves is brilliant as Johnny Utah as this very smart and determined FBI agent who finds himself intrigued by the world of surfing as he is unsure whether to stop a free-spirit like Bodhi or do his job where Reeves has a sense of charisma and humor to his role that makes it very engaging to watch. Finally, there’s Patrick Swayze in a remarkable performance as Bodhi as this very cool and wild man who likes to live on the edge whether it’s in surfing or doing some skydiving. It’s really one of his most iconic performances that has Swayze be the guy you can’t help but like no matter how dark he can be.
Point Break is a phenomenal film from Kathryn Bigelow that features incredible performances from Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. The film is definitely one of the most fun and thrilling films about surfing and action while not being afraid to infuse a bit of cheese in terms of the bromance between Swayze and Reeves. In the end, Point Break is a sensational film from Kathryn Bigelow.
Kathryn Bigelow Films: The Loveless - Near Dark - Blue Steel - Strange Days - The Weight of Water - K-19: The Widowmaker - The Hurt Locker - Zero Dark Thirty - The Auteurs #29: Kathryn Bigelow
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