Opined by Bryan Ray of @DRMovieNews
Where do I begin?
Take a Vincent Van Gogh painting, add a horrific psychedelic filter, a touch of the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, a splash of Hellraiser, an unleashed Nicolas Cage performance, and marry that with John Wick. The offspring of that insane marriage is Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. Cosmatos’ film is a truly unforgettable, one of a kind experience. While the ensemble cast deliver suitably gonzo performances, this picture belongs to Nicholas Cage.
Co-written by Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn, a first time screenwriter, the first hour of the film is an ambitious slow burn filled with quietly emotional, relationship bonding dialogue akin to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The intelligent, charismatic, artistic title character (Andrea Riseborough), unfortunately crosses paths with cult-leader, Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who automatically falls so hard for her that he will do anything in his power to retrieve her.
Mandy and her lumberjack lover, Red (Nicolas Cage), are immediately plunged into a hellish dimension and are pursued by unexplained dark forces. That’s all I will say about the plot, because there are many incredible twists and surprises in the film.
Panos Cosmatos has officially proven himself as a director to be reckoned with. With his first film, Beyond the Black Rainbow, he established a uniquely psychedelic visual style. This style that can only be described as “cinematic ecstasy” is carried over and vastly expanded on in Mandy. While, in his directorial debut, it felt more like style over substance, in this film, it is organically infused into the spine of the storytelling.
Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb’s realization of Cosmatos’ vision is undeniably Oscar-worthy. The film features some of the most visually relaxing, haunting, and colorfully dream-like shots I have ever seen, coupled with some truly eye-popping, old-school 2D animation. On only a $6 million budget, Loeb & Cosmatos were masterfully able to create an epic, nightmarish environment in a transfixing, lucid atmosphere.
Andrea Riseborough exquisitely delivers an honest, hauntingly seductive performance as Mandy. While much of her role is exclusively complex, heavy dialogue, her most striking quality is her ability to convey an aurora of emotions with her eyes. Riseborough’s eyes append the lucidity of the nightmare around her. It’s absolutely stunning work.
Linus Roache, who portrayed Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins, is unapologetically menacing and unrecognizable as the villainous cult-leader, Jeremiah. Channelling both Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs and The Joker from The Dark Knight, Roache’s Jeremiah is unsettling, darkly hilarious, disturbingly sexual, and a portrait of pure, cowardly evil. Jeremiah is one of the most interesting antagonists I have seen in recent memory.
From quietly sympathetic, to shatteringly heartbroken, to absolutely off-the-rails badass, Nicolas Cage delivers the performance of his career as Red. Brilliantly playing off of Cage’s strengths, Cosmotos releases the Cage from his long, overdue slumber. Red’s “hero’s journey” plays like an ancient legend, told through the eyes of an unhinged painter tripping on LSD.
It’s nothing like I had ever seen before, and it sure isn’t something I will ever forget. Cage delivers the best performance by an actor in 2018 so far, and the best of his cinematic career. Two-scenes in particular had the audience in hysterical laughter and uncontrollable applause. Can we get the Oscar-Campaign rolling?
Compounding with the stunning visuals, the emotionally charged, bold, and haunting score from the late great composer, Johann Johannsson, is also the best that 2018 has yet to offer. Soul-piercing synth, screaming electric guitar, dreamlike ambience, and booming percussion, the drowning atmosphere of the film wouldn’t be complete without Johansson’s presence. We lost a true master. His beautiful work for Mandy, Arrival, and Sicario, among others, will never be forgotten.
Without spoiling anything, the gore-filled action, practical effects, production design, and character concepts are all perfectly realized to extraordinary, unrelentingly entertaining effect.
Mandy is a stunning, horrifying, and heartbreaking masterpiece. Panos Cosmatos has solidified himself as a true visionary director, and Johann Johannsson composes a boldly beautiful posthumous score, but this film belongs to the iconic, Oscar-worthy Nicolas Cage. The film is a truly unique gift to genre filmmaking and a perfect cinematic experience.
DR Diagnosis: 100%