walkenchronicles

Think of this as a guide through each of Christopher Walken's films, starting with his first and moving forward. Each review will provide analysis, factoids and opinion on the ninety-plus films in his career.

Brainstorm (1983)

Look at all these different film-posters I found for today’s Walken film. My favorite is the Spanish(?) one below where they look like heavily-rouged 80’s synth-punk music-video albinos playing eye-footsie and connected by a brain-rainbow.

a Brainbow!

Genre: This is Sci-Fi, with a strong emphasis on the process of invention and the politics of “owning” world-changing technology.

Walken In Short: He’s all over this movie. He’s the lead, he’s got a lot of lines, and they’re all awesome. It is a brilliant, conflicted character. This is necessary Walken.

Movie in a Sentence: When a small team of scientists (mainly Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher, and Natalie Wood) invent a device that can record one person’s perceptual experience (sex, fighting, meditating, whatever) and transfer that experience to another person, they struggle to keep it out of the hands of those who would militarize, weaponize, monopolize and otherwise misuse its utility.

Director: Douglas Trumbull

Writer: Bruce Joel Ruben (story)

Robert Stitzel and Phillip Frank Messina (screenplay)

Actors Other Than Walken: Louise Fletcher, Natalie Wood, Cliff Robertson

Duration: One hour and 46 minutes

Available to Own: VHS / DVD / BLU

Should You Watch This? Without a doubt, yes. Even apart from how dramatically textured and otherwise awesome Walken is in this, it’s still an intriguing sci-fi flick. Also, when you watch it…

  • You get pretty sweet early special effects by a master of the craft, Douglas Trumbull, who also did the oh-so-special effects for Blade Runner, Close Encounters, and 2001: A Space Odyssey just to name a few.
  • You get Louise Fletcher, whom you may remember was the uncompromisingly evil Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In Brainstorm, she is a chain-smoking, ball-breaking scientist every bit as brilliant as Walken’s character. And he’s her only weakness, her only friend. She has venom for everyone else. Together, they invent a device that completely revolutionizes the human experience.
  • You get Natalie Wood’s final performance. Like Jason Lee in The Crow, and more recently Heath Ledger in  The Dark Knight, Wood died before principal photography was completed. Word on the street is after her death, the studios wanted to scrap the movie and be done with it. They were insistent. Trumbull strongly disagreed and was stubborn enough to finish the movie using doubles, editing and other tricks. So he won, but he never directed again.
  • And you get Walken tearin’ it up and layin’ it down. Which is nice.

MPAA Rating: This got a ‘PG’ but I would edge it more towards the ‘-13’ side of things. Mostly because there’s some Confrontation of Death in here that may blow their little minds. There are also some sexy science scenes, where they’re *ahem* experimenting with some laadies. *coughcough* You know: for Science! But it’s all real cheeky and light. Well, mostly cheeky and somewhat light until the end. Yeah, it gets a bit dark. But just a bit.

Out Of Ten: I’ll give it an Eight. It’s a fascinating concept, the story is well-told, and there’s some great acting by both Walken and Fletcher. Yes, the third act that Trumbull put together isn’t perfect, it does feel slightly off, but it’s still a crazy ride. Hell yeah.

Similar Films: Strange Days, The Mind Snatchers* (also a Walken film), The Lawnmower Man

Random Thought: Let me just give a quick shout-out to the film Strange Days (1995).If you haven’t seen it, fix that. It uses the same perception-transferal technology in a totally different kind of film. It’s a high-speed-sexy-techno-cyberpunk-apocalyptic-serial-killer-neo-hard-boiled-detective-story. Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore. So many more names, but really, just watch it. Oh! Watch it after Brainstorm, it could work as a kind of sequel. Kind of. No Walken in Strange Days, but whatever, they can’t all be Walken-tastic.

Sudden Reaction to the Random Thought: Holy moly what if Walken had gotten Ralph Fiennes’ role in Strange Days! Whoooa Lenny. 

Walken Content: 82% Lots of screen-time. Enjoy it. *nom nom nom* It’s good.

Walken Quote: There is a funny sequence in the film where Walken is creating what is essentially a mix-disc of memories for his ex-wife to experience. We see a series of short clips from their past, mostly of them arguing, and taken completely out of context.

So we get to see Walken carrying his huge recumbent bicycle in his arms, sulking like a 5 year-old, saying “I wanna ride my bike, big deal.”

Then we see Walken on a beach holding a 5 year-old, saying “You take him, his pants are full.”

And then the best one: Walken is in his backyard wearing a checked apron, a tall, classic chef’s hat and an oven mitt, swinging a spatula around, while a HUGE satellite dish is being constructed. And with a voice full of innocence, he says:

“You can put flowers all around it, I don’t know what you’re so upset about.” ~ Walken in Brainstorm

Final Thought: Despite a rushed third act, and some campy acting by the supporting cast, this is a thoughtful sci-fi drama/thriller that was wise enough to give Walken as much room as he wanted to explore the role.

There are actually some haters out there that only see the flaws and focus on what this film could have been, or should have become. If this or that. Fools.

Flaws, shmaws. This movie has a wild spirit, I suppose that’s a flaw too, right? Alright cine-snobs, let me tell you a little secret…

Christopher Whisperin’

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