Brainstorm (1983)

brainstorm poster 1983 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Interesting visuals, good concept, good cast

Story has no focus

Movie Info

Movie Name: Brainstorm

Studio: JF Productions

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): September 30, 1983

MPAA Rating: PG

brainstorm natalie wood christopher walken

Take a trip with me…just be careful of the destination

Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) and Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher) are onto something big.  They are creating a device that can allow the user to see through the eyes of others as it captures memories in real-time.   The project is being funded by the labs of Alex Terson (Cliff Robertson), but experimentation cost money and Terson might have plans for the project Reynolds and Brace might not like.  When the potential and the danger of the machine is demonstrated, Michael and his wife Karen (Natalie Wood) find themselves in a race against time to find out the truth before it is too late.

Directed by Douglas Trumbull, Brainstorm is a science-fiction thriller.  The movie suffered multiple production problems and was threatened to be scuttled after the death of Natalie Wood during filming.  The movie was released to mixed reviews and has gained a small cult following since its release.

Brainstorm is largely known as “Natalie Wood’s last film”.  The actress had a long history with Hollywood and her mysterious death fueled rumors both salacious and criminal.  As a result and a ballooning budget, Brainstorm kind of fizzled…but the movie has some strong points.

brainstorm louise fletcher death scene

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

The story for the movie is potentially interesting.  The film’s basic idea is “If you could see the world through someone else’s eyes…should you?”  The machine allows Wood and Walken to reconnect after their strained relationship because it allows them to see each other as the other perceives them.  It creates a slight “problem” for Hal Abramson (Joe Dorsey) who gets caught in a never-ending orgasm loop, and it captures death on film…creating the film’s problem:  it’s plot is everywhere.  Is it about finding the truth about life after death?  Foiling the military plans to use the tool as a weapon?  Using the machine as a therapeutic tool?  It never really settles on any plot.  It is like there is an idea, and no clear path on how to use it.

The cast is actually pretty good despite the scripting.  Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood make a pretty good couple and there were rumors that it wasn’t just on screen.  Louise Fletcher can often be a little bland, but she works here, and Cliff Robertson always plays a rather skuzzy guy in movies around this time…and continues it here.  National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Night of the Creeps star Jason Lively plays Wood and Walken’s son Chris who gets his own experience with the machine.

brainstorm heaven angels death scene ending

Ok…Heaven, Hell…Whatever

The movie did a lot with visuals and some of them were kind of revolutionary.  The movie played with filming and pushed a 60 frames-per-second format that was cancelled by MGM due to price and the cost of putting it in theaters.  It did use different aspect ratios to give the dream sequences and many of the sequences are pretty technically strong.

Brainstorm is a movie that could have been a great movie if the script had been stronger.  It has a lot of interesting ideas, and feels similar to movies like Dreamscape and or even something like Flatliners which both focus on technology and how it can relate to humanity or the understanding of life.  If Natalie Wood wouldn’t have died, Brainstorm could have easily been completely forgotten, but with her death, the movie does appear as a footnote to long career.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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