Overview: Suffering from an aggressive brain disease, former CIA agent Evan Lake pursues his obsession with an Islamic terrorist. Red Granite Pictures; 2014; Rated R; 94 minutes.
America and Islam: As a prisoner, Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) was tormented by Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim) in interrogation sessions. Two decades later, the events have left Lake with excruciating memories, amplified by his frontotemporal dementia, and a restless belief his tormentor is alive. Lake’s liability-ridden state is enough to persuade the CIA to dismiss Lake. Outside of their hand of influence, Lake plots his plan of revenge. In 2014, it would be nice to see an action film not fall back on simplified stereotypes of stock Muslim terrorist antagonists. Surely there might be a way to preserve these types of conflicts without feeding into our cultural Islamophobia. If such a storytelling technique exists, this movie doesn’t even bother to discover it. The dated and reckless standard is getting harder and harder to overlook.
The Easily Forgotten: Nicolas Cage doesn’t connect with the same fervor he has given us in the past. I want to believe Cage and I are thinking the same thing; it was a bad idea to accept this role. The sense of noncommittal dragging and absentmindedness is understandable. Cage is historically an actor who, for better or worse, puts himself entirely in a role, but here he seems to be holding on to the thought, “Why am I doing this?” Cage is uncharacteristically separated from Lake, but he’s not the only hollow character. There is: Lake’s overseas contact/lady friend, the guy the CIA brings in to insist that Lake retire, and Lake’s off-to-the-side sidekick. I fully support large casts, only if each member provides a meaningful and memorable co-existence to the life of a movie’s story. I applaud movies with a limited cast when director demonstrates control and weighs the outcomes of introducing each character. Director and writer Paul Schrader miscalculates the importance of character development and hashes out flat roles. There’s a misleading sense of anticipation for Milton (Anton Yelchin). Milton has the opportunity to evolve alongside Lake; as Lake uncontrollably deteriorates, Milton adopts his ways. A seemingly important physical feature is forgotten indefinitely. If you are going to watch this movie, make a game out of it, and play Spot the Slice. Lake’s characteristic scarred ear switches from his right side to the left and the camera work is not to blame. Honestly, the experience of watching the movie is pretty much the same as the experience of watching the trailer.
Final Thoughts: Dying of the Light fails to enlighten as the torch dims low for this “action-adventure.”