Dying of the Light
Nicolas Cage and writer-director Paul Schrader reteam for a forgettable spy thriller
The ridiculously prolific Nicolas Cage has films lining up for release like circling planes waiting for a safe landing slot. On paper, spy thriller Dying of the Light is one of his more promising recent ventures. Originally set to be directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (now an executive producer), it reunites Cage with Bringing Out the Dead's screenwriter Paul Schrader. Alas, the result of their joint endeavours is a pedestrian, globe-trotting cloak-and-dagger yarn that was reportedly butchered in post-production, and which contains only intermittent flashes of the more interesting film that might have been.
Looking his age for once, a white-haired Cage plays Evan Lake, a decorated, deskbound CIA veteran rolled out to give rousing speeches to new recruits. The offer to retire coincides with a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia that will result in mood swings, blackouts and memory loss. It also coincides with evidence that Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim), his torturer and terrorist nemesis from twenty years earlier, may be alive in Kenya. The ailing Lake sets out for revenge with shifty young CIA protégé Milton Schultz (Anton Yelchin) in tow and old flame Michelle (Irène Jacob) to visit on their travels.
Hopping from Washington to Bucharest and Mombasa, Dying of the Light offers an efficient, dutiful plod through familiar espionage territory, complete with half-hearted car chases and shoot-outs in public places. More compelling are a vulnerable Lake confronting his own mortality, alongside his barnstorming rants against the failings of the CIA and how corrupted the notion of duty to country has become. That feels more like the film Schrader and Cage intended to make before others stepped in to re-edit it and whittle it down to something much more generic and much more forgettable.
Selected release from Fri 2 Jan.