Strange Days 1995 Movie Scene Ralph Fiennes as Lenny Nero outside a seedy bar in back alley with a neon light behind him

Strange Days [1995]

I don’t know why this movie didn’t make a bigger splash when it came out. I remember watching it back in the day and being completely consumed by it. Strange Days is a blend of cyberpunk and noir with an immersive atmosphere. And the world-building is out of this world as is character development. Just a little over ten years after the release of one of the most influential novels in the genre, Neuromancer by William Gibson, we still don’t have its big-screen adaptation. However, we have this movie focusing on similar types of characters only with a bit more social commentary.

I think that Strange Days is one of those underrated science fiction movies that will become popular in the decades to come. It’s strangely prophetic for the year 1995 although there have been movies exploring similar topics. Mindwarp comes to mind along with Johnny Mnemonic and, to some extent, The Lawnmower Man. This is a movie that deals with not only the growing social divide but also the inevitable escape into the virtual world. Something I can totally relate to. Moreover, it explores the subjective experience of our shared reality, a rather philosophical and thought-provoking subject. 

Just don’t think that this is one of those boring and preachy movies because it most certainly is not. Strange Days also features a lot of action, thrills, and twists, everything you would expect from a masterfully crafted science fiction thriller. With a running time of just under two and a half hours, it’s going to take up your whole evening. But it’s going to be totally worth it. Granted, it did lose some of its appeal since the Y2K problem turned out to be a dud. Although you might even argue that this made it even more charming and nostalgic.

Lenny Nero is a small-time crook specializing in the sale and purchase of memories of other people. Recorded on a small disk, these memories enable the buyer to relive these events as if they were there. Lenny works practically in a war zone since Los Angeles has become a very dangerous city in the year of our lord 1999. However, this will be the least of his worries when he comes into possession of disturbing memory on a disk. A memory that will put his life in danger.

You might say that the main story of Strange Days feels like an updated version of Hardcore, a late seventies noir thriller starring George C. Scott. However, there are just too many elements here to call it that. The script is intelligent and the cast is even better. Who knew that Ralph Fiennes could play a crook so well? Apart from him we also have Angela Bassett, Vincent D’Onofrio, and William Fichtner. It’s best to think of it as a bit sleazier version of Blade Runner.

A lot of the scenes will be taking place on busy streets giving the movie a sense of authenticity. The same goes for all the seedy bars and back alleys we will be also visiting. If you replace disks with cocaine you can an idea of where most of the story takes place. And then there are the memories themselves. Immaculately filmed from the first perspective there are technically perfect and provocative. They will make you wonder what kind of memory would you buy.

There will be graphic violence and a surprising amount of nudity for such a big movie. Moreover, there will be a couple of scenes that will delve into some very dark corners of the human mind. They can be quite unsettling especially when you consider the fact that a large percentage people would secretly want to relive these horrific moments. Something we already talked about in 8MM starring Nic Cage. All of this makes Strange Days one of the most underrated science fiction of the nineties if ever.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writers: James Cameron, Jay Cocks

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Vincent D’Onofrio, William Fichtner

Fun Facts: The band playing at the Millennium party at the end of the movie is Testament, from San Francisco.


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