Initial reactions to latest Nick Cage revenge thriller are sure to be mixed, but thanks to the artistry of the actors, and the way writer/director Paul Schrader holds this film firmly together, helps in driving this simmering thriller all the way to the bitter end.
Nicolas Cage plays ageing CIA agent Evan Lake, something of a spokesperson for anyone thinking of joining the organisation. However, Lake is suffering from a brain disease and the only option for him now is to retire. This once hard-as-nails agent is deteriorating slowly, and is being haunted by harrowing memories of torture; making it increasingly hard for him to differentiate between reality and his own illusions. With help from younger colleague Milton Schultz (Anton Yelcin), recent information leans towards Lake’s capturer and torturer, Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim) still being alive. In a Jack Bauer type fashion; this becomes a brutal and bloody hunt for the man that took everything away from him.
Naturally when examining terrorist activity you know it’s not going to be a light hearted flick and this is no exception. In fact, when the film was originally in the pipeline, Harrison Ford was up for the lead role until he realised just how brutal this character truly is. However, and despite all the formulaic flaws and re-workings of Schrader’s original artistic vision, Cage steals the show, while co-star Anton Yelcin holds his own as Milton and Banir plays the tormenter – also riddled with disease – skilfully.
Unfortunately for Schrader however, it’s apparent this wasn’t the film that such a man who has worked with Scorsese and Bret Easton Ellis wanted to produce. The script was there, the talent was there, all to be twisted and distorted in the editing suite. It seems everyone from the actors, director, producers and even the cinematographer have publicly disowned this version of the film. If executed in the intended way, Dying of the Light could have been an accomplished exploitation of human emotions. We do get a glimpse of this, albeit not to the extent that the filmmakers wanted and indeed the audience desired.