Streamers (3 stars)


(15) 104min (Metrodome)


The vexed issue of how to turn stage plays into cinema has haunted the movies for as long as the technology to make film has existed. This 1983 attempt by Robert Altman to film David Rabe’s noted mid-70s American drama takes a direct approach. The piece takes place in the early days of the Vietnam conflict, on an American army base, where the squaddies await transportation to Nam.

Altman allows the play’s claustrophobia to speak for itself, shooting entirely on one barrack room set in long takes. In this closed environment, a disturbed GI visits three young soldiers with specialised skills. Tensions escalate from mild japery to homicidal rage as their time to go to war draws nearer, and attitudes to sexuality and race become the focal point for violence. Altman’s production starring Matthew Modine and Michael Wright is always interesting, but the deliberate staginess of the piece eventually becomes wearing; the fact Streamers was originally a studio theatre piece gives the original too much advantage over the film in creating a stifling atmosphere for the film to fully compete. Not much in the way of extras.