Natalie Wood stars in her last movie as the estranged wife of scientist Christopher Walken. He’s just created this doohickey that you wear on your head that lets you experience someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Naturally the government wants to use it for some sort of a weapon and Walken sets out to sabotage the project.
Brainstorm had the potential to be a mind-blowing Sci-Fi flick (no pun intended) but it’s undone by the flimsily written characters and generic plotting. The performances are earnest enough I suppose, yet they never really endear themselves to the audience completely. Although there are some good moments sprinkled in throughout (like when Walken uses the machine to make a greatest hits compilation of memories from his marriage), the relationship stuff and the sciency stuff go together like oil and water.
The special effects are great, but that’s to be expected since the director was Douglas Trumbull, the man who did the FX for 2001. While the photography during the Brainstorm Vision Cam sequences is breathtaking, the constant switching of aspect ratios gets annoying after awhile. Maybe if I saw it in a theater, it would be a different story. At home though the flip-flopping of Widescreen to Wider-Screen just gets irritating.
The photography isn’t the big problem; it’s the script. The story gets increasingly muddled as it goes along and the government conspiracy subplot is tedious. It’s also really frustrating that they introduce a potentially intriguing plotline late in the film (someone dies while wearing the Brainstorm Helmet and transmits images of Heaven), and then do very little with it. Maybe if the screenwriters Brainstormed a little bit more, Brainstorm could’ve turned out better.
AKA: The Gordon Forbes Tapes.