Bringing Out the Dead Oct 18, 2017 20:26:03 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 18, 2017 20:26:03 GMT -5
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Bringing Out the Dead is a psychological drama by way of Charles Bukowski, where the dirt and grime of characters and industry are smeared out in the open for all to see. It makes no attempt to illustrate any silver linings, and for a film that revolves around a character whose job is saving lives, it's tragically hopeless and melancholic. Those looking for an emotionally raw and honest motion picture will have already been sold by what little I've said.
But naturally, I must say more. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese, a man whose filmography is among the upper third of the most interesting filmographies in cinema. One for detailing rise and fall stories, movies with characters that harbor guilt, and those attempting to remain god-fearing in a godless world, Bringing Out the Dead loosely meshes the three while veering off into territory Scorsese has never really charted. There's no suggestion that the film's main character, Frank Pierce, was ever on top in life, although there is a little bit to suggest his preoccupation equates to "playing God" in his mind. He might've had some good days, like ones where he got maybe two meals in before he had a drink, but never does he seem to be the kind of person that ever rose high enough to have a meaningful fall. He's lived life perpetually near the bottom.
Frank is a burned-out, depressed paramedic, who has worked the graveyard shift in a two-man ambulance in lower Manhattan for the past five years. He used to let a combination of instincts and medical prowess take control in times of crisis, saving dozens of lives; now, tasked with aiding patients in the midst of cardiac arrest as well as chronic drug addicts, he can't manage to save one soul. He does all he can do to get fired, coming in late for every shift, but the short-staffed medics can't afford to let Frank go regardless of how unstable he appears.
We focus on three days in his life, as his sanity dissipates and he becomes burdened by prolific visions of patients who died on his watch. One in particular is a homeless teen girl named Rose, whose face appears over various peoples' frequently throughout the film. On the first night, we watch Frank and fellow medic Larry (John Goodman) patrol the streets, the call of the night coming in the opening scene of the film - a cardiac arrest in a high-rise apartment. The man is the father of Mary (Patricia Arquette), a recovering junkie Frank befriends as he observes her father's treatment at an overcrowded hospital known as "Mercy," the one to which he most prolifically routes his patients. In the meantime, Frank and Larry become acquainted with a new designer street-drug known as "Red Death," peddled by a local two-bit dealer already known for its lethal consequences.
The following day is a longer one, with Frank riding with Marcus (Ving Rhames), an excitable man with deeply religious convictions. When confronted with a victim of Red Death, who has been dead for several minutes, Marcus channels his religious energy and gets the man to pull through. On the final day, Frank is put with the Tom (Tom Sizemore), a rowdy man with violent tendencies. Meanwhile, regulars in the form of a local drug addict named Noel (Marc Anthony) and a rancid-smelling alcoholic serve as recurring calls for Frank, as predictable as his tendency to drink in the ambulance and reach a breaking point when the clock strikes the wee hours of the morning.
Frank is played by Nicolas Cage in the most astounding performance I've seen from the man; the last time he was impressive was in Leaving Las Vegas. Cage is infrequently good in movies. He's one of the only actors I can think of who is more often great than he is good, but his greatness involves unearthing the depths of his own personal filmography. His performance as Frank is as physically challenging of a role as it is a mental one. The atmosphere Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader (working off of Joe Connelly's novel of the same name), and veteran cinematographer Robert Richardson (Scorsese's frequent collaborator) all manages to convey is one that has the potential to exhaust and cripple you within the first few minutes of the film. Schrader puts the pressure of an overworked, undernourished paramedic on you, and also on Cage, filling your eyes with images of crowded hospitals and unbridled filth, while Scorsese and Richardson drive it all home by presenting it with the rawest of details.
The scenes at the hospital are the most terrifying because they are realistic. Mercy is an overcrowded facility with tired doctors, distraught family members, and security guard donning sunglasses who refers to himself in the third person. Patients, usually drug addicts, cry for a cup of water, and a receptionist coldly tells a drug user that when he inevitably chooses to leave the hospital and inject the same poison into his body that brought him to Mercy, next time, do it in a different city. When checking up on Mary's father, Frank is disturbed by voices from the conscious but drugged elderly man to pull the plug and end his misery, tempting Frank to do arguably the last good thing he can for a man whose life is in dire straits.
Bringing Out the Dead is an emotionally honest look at a job that brings work that's never done and solace that's scarcely achieved. It's a nightmarish work of dirty realism that may not be so dirty upon further examination. Outside of mob-movies based on Nicholas Pileggi novels, the film stands as Scorsese's best work.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore, and Marc Anthony. Directed by: Martin Scorsese.