Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bringing Out the Dead

Based on the novel by Joe Connelly, Bringing Out the Dead is the story of a paramedic who copes with the lives he’s lost while working the graveyard shift of his job where he later sees ghosts. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Paul Schrader, the film is an exploration of a man dealing with the severity of his work as well as his own faults where he would in the worst possible time with different partners. Starring Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Marc Anthony, Mary Beth Hurt, and Tom Sizemore. Bringing Out the Dead is a dark yet evocative film from Martin Scorsese.

Set in the span of three days in the early 1990s, the film revolves around the manic life of a paramedic who works the graveyard shift as he deals with the lives he wasn’t able to save and the emergence of ghosts that he sees including a young woman he wasn’t able to save. Along the way, he would work with three different partners as the craziness of three days would eventually take his toll while he would also encounter the daughter of a man he had just brought in who goes into a coma. Paul Schrader’s script isn’t just the study of a man that is just burned out as he is haunted by the ghost of a young woman whose life he couldn’t save. It’s also in the fact that he’s done this job for five years with mixed results but he past several months haven’t been good.

The script follows the three days in the life of Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) who would work with three different partners as well as encounter a strange group of people with only a patient’s daughter that he meets often as the only sense of normalcy he would have. The script also features a voice-over narration from Pierce as it expresses his sense of guilt and loneliness where he doesn’t get a lot of sleep and is numbing himself with alcohol and medication. Since it is set in early 1990s Manhattan in its most seedy and dark, the film also play into a world that is falling apart where a new drug has emerged and society is in chaos. A world that is starting to overwhelm Pierce as he becomes less confident in the lives he is trying to save while the different partners he work with don’t help matters either.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is very atmospheric for the way he presents early 1990s New York City as a world that is teetering on the edge where much of it is shot at night and in the early mornings. It’s a film that has Scorsese not only create something where there is a sense of danger and unpredictability in the course of three days but it’s also in showing a man that is about to fall apart. While Scorsese does include some wide shots and intricate camera angles in much of the shots with the city as its backdrop. Much of the film include mostly medium shots and close-ups to play into the sense of urgency that includes inside the ambulances and in the hospitals were doctors are struggling to save patients. Most notably this old man of a heart attack who keeps going back and forth into life and death as Pierce hears the old man who really just wants to die. Another person that frequently appears in the film is this brain-damaged man named Noel (Marc Anthony) who keeps asking for water as Pierce does whatever he can to help him.

The craziness in some of the moments in and out of the hospital has Scorsese using tracking shots to capture the action in a single take such as what goes on in ICU or what doctors had to do for one patient while several others are waiting. Scorsese does know when to slow things down as it relates to a key sequence in the second half where Pierce hangs out with the former junkie Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette) whose father is fighting for his life. The sequence would also serve as a wake-up call to Pierce as he is about to embark into his third night as it plays into his own revelations about himself and the guilt that consumes him. The film’s third act that includes a lot of manic shots and sequences that play into the craziness of the graveyard shift would say a lot into Pierce’s own views on death but also a chance that he could redeem himself. In the end, Scorsese creates a very eerie yet somber film about a paramedic coping with the insanity and darkness of his work in the span of three crazy nights.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson does phenomenal work with the film‘s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lights and bits of brightness for many of the exterior scenes at night as well as the more bright look in the hospital scenes as Richardson‘s work is a major highlight of the film. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does incredible work with the editing where it does rely a lot on style to play up the sense of the craziness of working in the graveyard shift with its jump-cuts, speedy montages, and dissolves. Production designer Dante Ferretti, with set decorator William F. Reynolds and art director Robert Guerra, does excellent work with the look of the hospital wards and ICU rooms to play into the craziness and chaos that occurs as well as that stench of death that looms throughout the film. Costume designer Rita Ryack does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual that includes the uniforms that Pierce and his team wears.

Special makeup effects artist Manilo Rocchetti does fantastic work with the look of the Noel character with his dreadlocks and ragged look as well as the look of some of the patients Pierce would encounter. Visual effects supervisor Michael Owens does brilliant work with the visual effects as it relates to the manic hallucinations that Pierce sees including the ghosts as it relates to those whose lives he couldn‘t save. Sound editor Philip Stockton does superb work with the sound in creating some unique sound textures to play into the craziness of the streets and locations as well as the way the ambulance sounds when it is on the road. The film’s music by Elmer Bernstein is excellent as it is mostly low-key to play into the drama with its orchestral-based score as it also helps set the dark mood into the film. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists a diverse array of music from Van Morrison, Johnny Thunders, R.E.M., UB40, the Marvelettes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, the Who, and the Clash.

The casting by Ellen Lewis is great as it features notable small roles from Michael K. Williams as a drug dealer who is dying over this mysterious drug, Cullen O. Johnson as the dying man Mr. Burke, Afemo Omilami as the hospital police guard Griss, Arthur J. Nascarella as Pierce’s boss Captain Barney, Julyana Soelistyo as Sister Fetus, Cynthia Roman as the ghostly young woman named Rose who is stalking Pierce, Phyllis Sommerville as Mary’s mother, Harper Simon as a rock star who had overdosed on this new drug, Judy Reyes as a ICU nurse, Sonja Sohn as a friend of Mary in Kanita, and as two different dispatchers that Pierce would listen to in Queen Latifah and Martin Scorsese. Other notable small roles include Aida Turturro as a nurse who is trying to keep up with the chaos of patients coming in, Nestor Serrano as the doctor who is looking after one patient after another, Mary Beth Hurt as a nurse who talks to patients in a very cynical yet comical manner, and Cliff Curtis as a drug dealer friend of Mary who gives Pierce a drug in an attempt to help him.

Marc Anthony is excellent as the troubled Noel as a brain-damaged man who constantly asks for water while being a danger to himself where Pierce is one of the few who actually tries to help him. John Goodman is fantastic as Pierce’s first partner Larry who is good at job though can be unreliable but is also the most level-headed guy that Pierce works with as he is aiming to become a captain. Ving Rhames is superb as Pierce’s second partner Marcus as stoic but cynical man that likes to preach Bible quotes as he is aware of Pierce’s depression and weariness only to not really make things any better. Tom Sizemore is brilliant as Pierce’s former partner Tom Wolls who would become his partner in the third act who is just as crazy in his thirst for blood while being the one guy who is more about the ride and chaos rather than saving lives.

Patricia Arquette is amazing as Mary Burke as a former junkie who deals with her father who might be dying or not as well as her own guilt about her relationship with her father where she befriends Pierce as the two both embark into their own journey into guilt and coping with death. Finally, there’s Nicolas Cage in a marvelous performance as Frank Pierce as this paramedic who is burned out, depressed, and guilt-ridden where he tries to deal with his work for three crazy nights in the graveyard shift where it is Cage being manic and somber as well as displaying a vulnerability to a man that is just about to crack.

Bringing Out the Dead is a remarkable film from Martin Scorsese. Featuring an eerie script by Paul Schrader, haunting visuals, a killer soundtrack, and a great ensemble cast led by Nicolas Cage. The film is dark yet intense film about a man teetering on the edge as he tries to save lives in the very late nights where he also deals with the specter of death. In the end, Bringing Out the Dead is a phenomenal film from Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) - (Street Scenes) - Boxcar Bertha - (Mean Streets) - Italianamerican - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New York - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) - Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Color of Money - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lesson - Goodfellas - Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) - (Casino) - (Kundun) - (My Voyage to Italy) - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) - Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) - No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) - (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The 50 Year Argument) - Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman) - Killers of the Flower Moon - (An Afternoon with SCTV)

© thevoid99 2016


Dell said...

One of the few Scorsese flicks I haven't gotten to, yet. I gotta check this one out.

thevoid99 said...

This is what I think is one of his more underrated films as it has this sense of him being quite manic but also play into the world of death as it's kind of a companion piece of sorts to Taxi Driver since the two films are both written by Paul Schrader.

ruth said...

This looks intriguing, Scorsese + Cage, that should be an interesting combo. I'm always intrigued by films that take place over the course of a short period of time, too.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-This is a very underrated film as it was made when Cage was someone that people could rely on as he really sold that sense of despair. It's also a nutty film that is very crazy but it makes a lot of sense into the idea of what people would do in the graveyard shift.

Unknown said...

My wife suffers from insomnia and Cage really nailed what it is like for someone plagued with it, from the way he acted to the way he looked and just how he carried himself in general. A fascinating, underrated gem of a film for sure. Great soundtrack, too!

thevoid99 said...

@J.D. Lafrance-It is really underrated and needs to be seen more as I think it's one of Scorsese's finest films. I've also been going through bouts of insomnia lately as it is tough to deal with and this film is smacked on.