The other day I discovered the promotional material for Google Glass. It immediately reminded me of a film called “Brainstorm.” I saw this movie on cable not long after it came out in the mid-80’s. It has always stayed with me. Many critics feel that this was a movie that failed to live up to it’s potential and I acknowledge that. However, I think this is a movie worth watching. The whole premise is based on the invention of a technology that makes it possible to tap directly into the human brain, make recordings, and play those recordings back. This recording device makes it possible to share experiences, feelings, dreams, etc… The concept is fascinating, particularly when you consider that people imagined this level of detail all the way back in the 1980’s.

The movie stars Christopher Walken, and Walken was at the top of his game. He was only 5 years removed from his oscar win in Deer Hunter, and in the same year he made “Brainstorm” he also made “The Dead Zone.” At the time, Walken was one of the hottest stars in hollywood. Which is probably how this film attracted such a strong supporting cast. Louise Fletcher, who had also recently won an academy award herself (Best Actress, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) co-stars in Brainstorm with Walken. And in addition this was the last film that the beautiful and brilliant Natalie Wood was in (3 time oscar nominated). Also in the movie is Cliff Robertson (RIP), who I think very highly of…Robertson won an academy award as well (Best Actor, “Charly” 1969).

Douglas Trumbull directed “Brainstorm.” Trumbull is legendary in the visual effects community. He was a part of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he was a part of “Blade Runner,” and he was a part of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” And he plies his trade well in “Brainstorm,” there are visual effects in this film that were cutting edge in the 80’s and even in today’s CG world are impressive to watch. His eye for effects is nothing short of brilliant. As a filmmaker though he missed an opportunity on “Brainstorm” – he had the cast to make something incredible.

This movie features a phenomenal score by James Horner. Horner is known for “loving his own stuff” and repeating it too much (see his Star Trek soundtracks, Avatar, etc…). On “Brainstorm” though Horner’s style is adapted, while the “Brainstorm” composition does include some of the typical Horner elements, such as live choir vocals, it is orchestrated in such a way that it is chilling and at times blends so seamlessly into the film that you can’t tell where he stops and the movie keeps going. I think this was one of Horner’s best pieces of original music…though certainly his work on Star Trek or Titanic is probably what he is best known for. Among Lutz and I – Horner will always have a special place because of his work on “Krull.”

If you haven’t seen this movie, it is really worth seeing once. And if you have seen it, I would recommend re-watching it. When you think about the fact that it was made over 30 years ago, and had demonstrated technological thinking that we are just now starting to approach – it adds interest as a science fiction film. The movie explores (albeit perhaps not well enough) some of the deeper issues associated with the developments in human computer interfaces; the ethical issues associated with that as well as the potential ramifications of technology like this on the metaphysical. Check it out and let us know what you think.

4 Responses to Movieraiders Netflix Reco: Brainstorm

  1. Lutz says:

    Great post! So many ways to take this one:

    1. What is better: Brainstorm or Dreamscape? Dreamscape cast: Dennis Quaid, Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Kate Capshaw, George Wendt and of course Dave Patrick “Come out to Plaaa-E-aayyyy” Kelly. And would Inception exist without these 2 movies?

    2. If Christopher Walken was at the top of his game, then what does it mean that A View to a Kill was his next movie? I know Christopher Walken is the man and he had SO many memorable roles. But at a glance, would you say that he has never achieved excellence the way he did in Deer Hunter at the earliest stage of his career?

    3. Finally, the James Horner thing could not be more true. Sure I still love his soundtracks, but why do they ALL sound the same? Avatar, Glory, Braveheart, Titanic – different sides of the same soundtrack. By the way, shout out to Willow – a totally underrated soundtrack courtesy of James Horner.

    • John says:

      I have to admit I have been thinking of Dreamscape lately. I think it is a poor man’s Brainstorm. At all levels of filmmaking it is just a notch below. GREAT “Warriors” reference..that line was not scripted. A whole different conversation is who was the best gang in Warriors. RE: Inception, I totally agree Brainstorm paved the way…I also think Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind heavily influenced Inception.

      After a “peak” there are inevitably valleys. I think being in a Bond movie was still en vogue then so Walken jumped. Aren’t you a Roger Moore guy?

      I go Krull – you pull in Willow…we haven’t missed a beat Lutz.

  2. Lutz says:

    Yes – I admittedly was a Roger Moore fan. Bond Villains still in vogue you say? Prior to Christopher Walken, the villains were Louis Jourdan. Yes he was in the Oscar Winning Gigi, but let’s be honest. You and I know him better as the villain in Swamp Thing which he did just the year before A View to a Kill. Prior to Louis Jourdan they had Julian Glover, who despite having trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company is best known to us as General Veers from Empire Strikes Back and Donovan from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

    • John says:

      Louis Jourdan raises an interesting question. Was Octupussy a better Bond film than A View to a Kill? It is a knee jerk to say yes, but we are splitting hairs. What is the best Moore Bond film? Kenzo said the Spy Who Loved Me was terrible? Moonraker? (Jaws reprisal). Live and Let Die? (Yaphet Koto). Was Timothy Dalton a better Bond than Brosnan?

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