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Brainstorm 1983 ***

An ideal double bill with 2014’s Transcendence, Brainstorm is a strange and somewhat prescient sci-fi film from Douglas Trumbull, taking his only post-Silent Running shot as director after managing the ground-breaking effects for 2001 and Close Encounters. Hampered by the death of star Natalie Wood during production, Brainstorm has an original conceit; a device which allows participants to experience events happening to someone else; experiencing death second-hand is the ultimate goal. Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) has been developing the machine, but fears the intervention of the military industrial complex, and after the death of his wife Lillian (Wood), goes on the run with the machine. The focus on mortality sits uneasily with the real-life tragedy of Wood’s death, but Brainstorm has a good deal of ideas to play with, with Trumbull creating visceral scenes of visual flair to suggest how the machine would work, interspersed with a sinister conspiracy drama. Brainstorm is an interesting failure; as with many sci-fi films that attempt to consider serious themes, the plotting gets in the way of the more profound meanings aspired to, but the intent is admirable.


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