Bringing Out the Dead

Bringing Out the Dead

Adam Khelah, Staff Writer

     “Bringing out the Dead” is one of Martin Scorsese’s most underrated films of all time. No one talks about it. The movie doesn’t even break a 7 on IMBD and only sits at a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. That isn’t bad, but it’s low for Scorsese. 

      A lot of people don’t even know this movie exists. I didn’t know it existed, and Martin Scorsese and Nicolas Cage are two of my favorite people in cinema. It was even written by Paul Schrader, the writer behind Taxi Driver. I only found this movie while surfing Nicolas Cage’s IMBD for something to watch. When I found it, I knew I had to check it out and I’m glad I did.

      The movie follows Frank Pierce (Cage) who works as a burned out New York City paramedic who tries to maintain his sanity for a seemingly endless three nights. Frank hasn’t been able to save someone in a while. All his patients keep dying on him. There’s one person he failed to save that’s haunted him most; a young woman named Rose. He sees her face in all of his patients. She haunts him. All Frank wants to do is save someone to make everything better. 

      Frank tells us in an inner voice over, “I’d always had nightmares, but now the ghosts didn’t wait for me to sleep. I drank every day. Help others and you help yourself, that was my motto, but I hadn’t saved anyone in months. It seemed all my patients were dying. I’d waited, sure the sickness would break, tomorrow night, the next call, the feeling would drop away. More than anything else I wanted to sleep like that, close my eyes and drift away.”

       Voice over has always been a mixed bag for me. It often is a lazy way to relay exposition to the audience. Yet, I can confidently say it works here. It gives us a haunting look at Frank’s inner demons that adds an extra layer of complexity and literary quality that you wouldn’t otherwise get in a movie. 

       One of the reasons I believe this movie was thrown under the bus is that it doesn’t follow the traditional story structure. It’s more of a character study. It’s more of an experience that you go through with Frank. The viewer is right there riding along in that ambulance with Frank. When he gets the call, so do you. That’s exactly what I love about this movie. You see it through Frank’s eyes. 

        Even the look of this movie is through Frank’s eyes. It has this drab, muted and washed out look that permeates the screen at all times. Expect for the whites which pop out like ghosts. I love how the look of the film reflects what the main character sees. We don’t see that a lot in movies.

       Now don’t get me wrong! This movie isn’t all dreary and depressing. There’s a lot of humor here, albeit a lot of it is dark. However, it keeps things fun. We get a lot of entertaining banter between Frank and his partners in the paramedic truck that lighten the situation just a tad. 

       In one of my favorite scenes, a completely manic and burned out Frank flips out on his for not firing him when he promised he would. He says “You swore you would fire me if I came in late again! You swore!” His boss responds, “I’ll fire you tomorrow. The next time I see you I fire you.”

      The movie also uses music to add a fun factor to it. We hear The Clash’s “Janie Jones” as Frank rushes in the ambulance to an emergency. We also hear R.E.M songs as well as a Van Morrison song plays throughout the movie. It creates an effective juxtaposition to the dreary look and feeling of the film.

     What makes this a movie a home run for me is the ending. While it may not be the most climatic ending, it provides a powerful conclusion to the inner struggles of our protagonist. 

     It also has one of my favorite quotes. Someone tells Frank, “No one asked you to suffer. That was your idea.” That quote stuck with me after viewing the movie. 

      “Bringing out the Dead” is criminally underrated and it is worth every second of its run time. I’d easily give it a 4/5.