The Dead Zone (1983)

I’ll pretty much watch anything with Christopher Walken in it, and I guess this is no exception. The Dead Zone follows the life of a high school English teacher who gets into a car accident just prior to marrying his fiancee (Brooke Adams), wakes up after a five year coma to discover she’s married, and, oh yeah, can predict the future by shaking someones hand.

The film hangs on to that classic style of cinema that I might not have described in my House of the Devil review, but typifies what I know of 70’s/early 80’s cinema. The opening sequence usually sets the stage for a film, but doesn’t concern itself with introducing all of the characters that will be relevant/alive for the whole film. There are two or three tense events, with each one feeling as though it could be the climax of the film since the stakes are genuinely important. Films shot in the last two decades seem to have leveled out the plot line so that everything is just a waste until you get to the big finish, which usually disappoints.

I won’t give any spoilers here for those of you who want to see TDZ (it is available on Hulu and Netflix), but the segmentation of the movie involves roughly three episodes that lead Walken’s character to a moral dilemma that is murky at best. Walken plays the role as only he could, and if you are a fan of his particular style of line delivery, there’s no shortage of it in this film. Martin Sheen also makes an appearance as a sleezeball political candidate, which was kind of a shocker after seeing him play the president character in The West Wing. He must have “politician” stamped on his forehead.

I’ll digress and talk about a sweet 70’s movie that this reminded me of. When a Stranger Calls (1979) has the same type of ebb and flow plotline that I think is missing from films in the 90’s/00’s era. The film does a flip midway through that is completely unexpected. Likewise for Dirty Harry which I just watched recently and never get tired of. There’s something about the idea that you can have two or three critical moments in a movie that I just don’t think writers/directors buy into anymore. The only film I can think of that I saw recently where the plot action dies with a character or is resurrected with a new storyline is…well, I’m actually drawing a blank, so clue me in if you can think of one.

7/10: three words: weapon of choice

Update: I was thinking about it, and Iron Man (2008) kind of has that feel to it when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is in the cave in Afghanistan. When I first saw it, I thought the movie would play out entirely in that setting, but the action shifts midway through and another plot develops.