I have to admit, all I know of Kathryn Bigelow up to this point is The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and that she was James Cameron’s wife. I knew she directed Point Break, but haven’t seen it; nor this odd sci-fi, Strange Days. After seeing it, though, I can see why the editors and contributors of the List wanted to have her represented in some way (this being years before The Hurt Locker came along); this is one hell of a unique film, though the plot is one you’ve undoubtedly seen before.
This film offers probably the most dystopic view of the future since the Terminator films. Weirdly enough, though, it is set a mere 4 years into the future; the film, made in 1995, takes place at the end of 1999 as the world prepares for the change-over into 2000. For such a short time, things certainly seem to have changed significantly; the nation has pretty much become a police state, anti-establishment rallies and even riots take place in every city every day, and the newest black market technology craze sweeping the underground is known as SQUID, which appears to be a neural headnet, capable of recording what you see, hear, feel, and everything, and playing it back on mini disc players. Ralph Fiennes headlines the film as one of the leading “dealers” of this would-be “drug”, who somehow finds himself in possession of a tape showing the murder of a modern day Malcolm X of the people, and the fight for his life his holding the tape provides is the plotline of the film. It’s a hell of a vision of the future, especially one a mere four years into the future, and again, I can see how it made the list because of it.
Now, as for the actual plotline, it’s fairly textbook and rudimentary; you’ll know where the film is going probably 75% of the time, and whether or not you guess the ending before it happens is up to you, really. It’s a plot you’ve seen a few times already, but it’s wrapped up in such a kinetic, cyberpunk packaging that the film’s look and feel is something you’ve likely not experienced before. Now, should you have to experience it before you die? Honestly, I can’t come down on one side or the other; there’s a few films I could probably think of that have that same unique sci-fi aesthetic as Strange Days, and one of them certainly should be represented on the list, but Strange Days was removed for newer entries, so it’s a toss up for me. I can say this, though; even with the somewhat longer length, I’m pleased with what I’ve seen, and despite it being rather cookie-cutter underneath all the style and funk, that’s usually what works with a mainstream audience, especially one from the 90s, so I can pretty easily forgive it.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10