Dying Of The Light

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Terence Gavish


  • Joseph H Smart 2 years ago
    117 of 129 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars
    Director and stars all disowned this version of movie., December 7, 2014
    Joseph H Smart (Chicago, IL United States) –

    This review is from: Dying Of The Light (Amazon Video)
    Nicholas Cage plays a former CIA field agent who has been obsessed for 22 years over a terrorist that everyone assumes is dead but that he believes is still alive. On the same day he finds out that he has an aggressive and incurable disease of the brain a coworker comes to him with proof that his dead nemesis might indeed be alive, although very likely terminally ill himself. Suffering from the onset of dementia and displaying troubling symptoms that make it clear he won’t be functional for much longer, Cage decides to track down and kill his enemy, which he thinks will allow himself to close the book on his life in a satisfying way.

    The behind-the-scenes story of Dying of the Light is that producers hired Paul Schrader to write and direct a movie and then decided that they didn’t really want a Paul Schrader film after all. It happened before, most famously with his Exorcist prequel. Writer/director Paul Schrader, stars Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin and original director/associate producer Nicolas Winding Refn have all disowned this version of the movie. Contractually barred from disparaging the finished product the men let their feelings be known by being photographed wearing t-shirts with the non-disparagement clause printed on the front.

    Reportedly the producers re-cut Dying of the Light without Schrader’s input but did not do any re-shoots so everything that’s in the movie was actually written and directed by Schrader. The apparent problem is that Schrader was making a thoughtful and melancholy film and the producers re-cut it with the ill-fitting rhythms of a 24 episode. The editing was meant to improve pacing but it likely did the opposite–the movie feels choppy rather than fast paced and character driven scenes are cut away from quickly because the producers were impatient to get to the action. It feels like Dying of the Light might contain one of Nicolas Cage’s more accomplished recent performances but it’s hard to tell for sure because the movie keeps cutting away from Cage’s bigger acting moments in a way that makes it difficult to process or appreciate them.

    The confrontation between Nicolas Cage’s sick CIA Agent and the terrorist he has been obsessed with killing for over twenty years is about as sad a scene as anything you are ever likely to see in an action thriller of this sort and probably provides the best clue as to the movie Paul Schrader was trying to make.

    Of course Paul Schrader has made some lousy movies over his long career and there is no way to really judge whether or not his version is better without actually seeing it–hopefully the home video release will include both versions so people can judge for themselves whether the producers improved the film or not. My guess is that the director’s version will feel moodier and more thoughtful but Dying of the Light can currently only be judged by the version that is available–right now it feels like a failed action thriller with a curiously leashed performance from Nicolas Cage. Audiences who watch this movie just for the thrills will undoubtedly be disappointed but the producers should have known what they were getting into–even in his version of popcorn mode with genre thrillers like Hardcore, American Gigolo, Cat People and his Exorcist flick Dominion Paul Schrader was never a Tony Scott and his commercial films always felt a little difficult–he was never able to make a slick and easy to digest entertainment, even when he tried. Dying of the Light only provides more evidence of that.

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  • JPS 2 years ago
    16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Not the best, but it has something and I liked it all the same…, October 20, 2015
    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)

    This review is from: Dying Of The Light (Amazon Video)
    Nicholas Cage plays the role of a former and once elite CIA field agent (Evan Lake) who was captured and brutally tortured some 22 years before by a major terrorist leader and was (rather miraculously) saved by an extremely timely raid by US Special Forces. He is now behind a desk, totally unfit for field operations, and reduced to delivering once a year the odd stirring speech to young CIA trainees. HE discovers, on the same day, that he has an incurable brain disease – a form of dementia – and that the terrorist who tortured him and that everyone except himself believes to be dead is in fact alive.

    The rest of the story is terribly predictable. Against all caution, and although (or because?) he is terminally ill, he wants to “settle accounts”. So he of course decides to track down and eliminate his former torturer almost single handed, with the help of Milton, a young agent who admires the “has-been” and everything he stands for. They will, of course, find their target and there will, of course, be a reckoning between the two men, both of which have incurable diseases. The end is also quite predictable, although I will let you guess it for yourself.

    Despite all this, I enjoyed the film and found it had a number of qualities, even if the scenario is not exactly original. I would also agree that Cage’s acting is perhaps not among his best, but it nevertheless good enough for him to deliver a rather convincing and somewhat frightening performance of the rather horrid symptoms that go with his disease. Added to this, the tracking down of the terrorist chief and the action surrounding it is rather interesting and exciting even if some bits may be somewhat hard to believe.

    However, the main quality that this film has in my view is its atmosphere, and in particular the spleen and pervasive sadness that is contained in a number of scenes. It is rather clear from the beginning that the hero’s last self-imposed quest will not have a “happy ending”. Another reviewer already mentioned the sadness of the scene where the two aged and ill adversaries come face to face. In a similar vein, there are also a couple more features, with the hero bidding goodbye to the only person he truly loved and could have lived a different life with – his main source and contact in Europe – and with his final demise.

    Contrary to other reviewers, I do not know what the film was supposed to look like according to its original Director and whether it would have been better or not had this Director’s version been released instead of this one. What I do know, however, is that this film, however imperfect and despite a number of clichés, has something going for it and was entertaining. Four stars because of this.

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  • Robert Hayes 2 years ago
    27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Mostly just underwhelming, December 29, 2014
    Robert Hayes (Maryland) –

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    This review is from: Dying Of The Light (Amazon Video)
    The big story associated with this film is that its director, Paul Schrader, was locked out of the editing room and denied final cut. Subsequently, Schrader and the stars have disowned this version. However, despite their reaction out of principle, DYING OF THE LIGHT isn’t that terrible. It’s merely underwhelming. Nicolas Cage gives a decent performance as Evan Lake, a veteran CIA agent with recently diagnosed dementia. Upon receiving some intelligence which indicates that a former target may still be alive, he decides to go after them before his disease puts him out of commission permanently. At its core, this film has an interesting concept that is never fully realized to its full thematic potential: two nemeses have one final reckoning while each are battling a debilitating disease. From what I saw, Nicolas Cage put in some good character work, and even gets to “rage” a little bit, but he was still hampered by an editing job that seemed to be going for a more streamlined thriller. Due to this, it felt like there was a fair amount of character development missing, mostly from supporting players but also from Cage himself. His disease doesn’t take as big of a role as you might think, given its severity. As far as the rest of the cast is concerned, everyone did a good job but they really weren’t given a whole lot to work with. Anton Yelchin was the only other name actor I recognized, and his presence seemed rather perfunctory. Perhaps he would have had a larger role in Paul Schrader’s cut, but we’ll probably never know unless it gets released on Blu-ray/DVD. All of the technical aspects of the film were good, although it did have the rather depressing color palette associated with low-budget Eastern European thrillers. The editing in the fight scenes was a bit choppy, but the camerawork was ok for the most part otherwise. The score also wasn’t too memorable, but it still fit the material to a degree. The only part of it I genuinely liked was the track that played over the closing credits. Overall, I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece and of course I didn’t get one. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be either, somewhat to its detriment. Scenes began and then ended without much incident and didn’t contribute much to the overall story. A part of me wished that it was worse because at least then it would be memorable. What I got was purely middle-of-the-road and, dare I say it, a little dull. Those looking for a fired-up Nicolas Cage performance should look elsewhere. You’d be perfectly justified in skipping this. (2.5/5)
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