When he is on his game, Nicolas Cage is one of Hollywood’s best actors. Somewhere along the line Cage somehow became a parody of, himself however. Head turning roles in movies like Wild at Heart were replaced with head scratchers such as The Wicker Man. Mandy from director Panos Cosmatos seems like the perfect vehicle for Cage. The question is, which Cage will we see?
Mandy is a beautiful movie. However, it is not pretty in the traditional sense. This is not a film that will wow audienes with picturesque scenes of mountains and rivers. (Though there is a lot of that.) The beauty of Mandy is more fantastical and dreamlike. A fog slowly wafts across the screen in many scenes, almost as if purposely trying to blur reality. Lurid reds and deep blues add to the atmospheric feeling. Mandy is set in the early 1980s, but it also looks like it is not of this world.
The lighting in Mandy is exceptional. Most of the movie is filled with shadows that literally keeps the viewer in the dark and add to the overall feeling of the film. This is done expertly throughout the entire movie and leaves a sense of uncertainty. Late in the movie there is finally a scene shot in a brightly lit room. The contrast is astounding and it makes what would be a rather normal scene look much more exciting.The acting in the movie is anchored by its leads. There is not much to say about Cage. The role of Red is well-suited for the Oscar winning actor. In Mandy, Red is the nutty Nick Cage that has become a meme, yet the story and situation lift him above joke status. (It helps that both Cage and the movie are self-aware.)
The best performance may come from Linus Roache. The character of Jeremiah Sand is captivating from the moment he is introduced. Mandy is a revenge flick, however the story is as much about Jeremiah. The film’s entire arc can be seen as the tragic tale of one man’s narcissism. This is especially true in the movie’s gory climax when Julian runs a gauntlet of emotions.
Mandy’s biggest flaw may come in the story itself. Cosmatos seems content at times to rely on the gorgeous visuals to carry the thriller. There is little backstory for the events or characters. Interesting plotlines are introduced, only to be completely abandoned. There is a lot of talking but little conversation in Mandy. This can be very confusing to the audience.The lack of character development is especially frustrating. In a story about vengeance, the protagonist needs to be someone who is relatable and can be cheered or even pitied. In Mandy, we know that Red definitely loves his wife, but the script leaves it at that. Red has a motive for his actions, but the writing does not let the audience know the reason he acts they way he does. The most glaring example is Jeremiah who is an interesting character study but the lack of backstory hurts the overall tale being told.
Mandy is visually stunning. The movie looks like a dream (or nightmare) that you cannot turn away from. Strong performances help overcome a thin story to make for an overall enjoyable experience.