When one thinks of Nicolas Cage’s career, there are two distinctive periods that come to mind. The first being the classic portion of his career, with movies such as Leaving Las Vegas and the modern day section which unfortunately consists of mostly straight to DVD trash. However, every now and then we get a new Cage film that puts his talent on display. With the new Panos Cosmatos film Mandy, we are offered a surreal experience that shows off the brilliance of not only him but everyone involved.
When broken down to its most basic elements, the story of this picture is simple. Situated in the Shadow Mountains, Red Miller (played by Nicolas Cage) lives with the love of his life Mandy Bloom (played by Andrea Riseborough). Eventually something happens which motivates Red to go on a revenge trip, seeking the individuals that harmed him and Mandy. Although, what makes the movie so special is how the tale is told. Presented with gorgeous dreamlike cinematography and set to the enthralling sonics of the late great Jóhann Jóhannsson’s final score, this movie exists somewhere in a plain of horror, action and surrealism. It is perhaps best described as being very very metal.
Clearly inspired by heavy metal culture (specifically album covers), the film drips with an insanity that kept me mesmerized throughout. It is very weird and quite violent, but I could not look away. It offers a unique experience that is unfortunately very rare these days. Interspersed with demon bikers, religious cults and battle axes; this extreme excursion appeals to an audience looking for something a little different. However, what makes it all so effective is how the performances and buildup make the climax so very satisfying.
The story is quite clearly split up into two distinctive parts. The first half consisting of character establishment and the second being the revenge portion. To start, the movie slowly establishes the environment and its people. We are offered an insight into Red and Mandy’s world, seeing their relationship simply exist. While some may find this segment boring, I found it be completely vital. In order for the craziness of the latter half of the film to pay off, we need to feel connected to these characters. When tragedy strikes this couple, I wanted nothing more than to see the deserved vengeance.
As touched on previously, the performances are fantastic throughout. Linus Roache is superb as the cult leader and main villain, Jeremiah Sand. His narrative provides us with the presentation of focused male ego, and is tremendously repulsive in the process. As for our heroes, Andrea Riseborough is perfect as the titular character, giving a doe-eyed act that is endearing from the get-go. She plays really well against Cage, who as the main lead of the picture delivers a performance that makes use of all his strengths. This is perhaps the ultimate combination of great actor Nicolas Cage and over the top Nicolas Cage. There are emotional moments that truly show off his acting skills, and there are others that allow him to go balls to the wall. Although, what makes these unrestrained instances so incredible is that they are not silly but rather believable. It is like all his previous uncontrolled roles have been leading up to this. This is prime crazy Cage that works in a way that I have never seen before, and it fits remarkably well as driving force of this fantastical outing.
Without sounding too pretentious, this is a film that often feels less like a viewing and more like an experience. This is clearly Panos Cosmatos’s full vision, unaffected by any kind of studio interference. Again, I must mention that this is not for everyone. Though, if the sound of a metal injected, surreal revenge story lead by one of Nicolas Cage’s best performances piques your interest, you are going to love this as much as I did.