Monday, January 21, 2013
Bringing out the Dead. B+
It seems like a strange film for Martin Scorsese to make, and when examining his filmography, Bringing out the Dead is always the one that looks somewhat out of place. It comes at the end of Scorsese's mid-nineties funk, in which he also made the uninspired Casino, the historical drama Kundin. And yet there's two things to note about Bringing out the Dead, one that it's a lot better than it might look on paper, and two, that it fits into Scorsese's cannon of work much more naturally than it initially seems to. I say this because in the film Scorsese is returning to the New York that made him famous and also because this actually works as a solid companion piece to Taxi Driver. In it we get Nicolas Cage as a disillusioned, distraught medic who experiences a weekend on the job that's the equivalent of hell on earth. This film is about exposure, about the chaotic world of medics in a big city where it seems like most of the people they're called to aren't even worth saving. Scorsese aims at reality and keeps us believing even when the submergence into the city's underbelly takes on the quality of a terrible dream. The material is quite dark, and yet Scorsese compels us to keep watching, mainly because it's good cinema. Whenever it feels like the story is dragging or fogging up in its purpose, Scorsese delivers a scene of great technical imagination, as when a man is rescued from fence in which the tip of it has pierced through his body. Bringing Out the Dead ultimately is more affirmative and less ambiguous than Taxi Driver, settling for convenience over ambition in its close. Yet it's still one of the director's most daring efforts, and makes you wonder if this is considered one of his lesser works whether he's capable of making anything that's not worth watching.