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Brainstorm (1983)

I saw Brainstorm when it first came out — 1983, says IMDB. I remembered thinking it was borderline terrific, so I decided to stream it last night, to see whether time had diminished it. I'd forgotten most of the movie's plot points, so it seemed fresh to me, and it's still borderline terrific.

It's science fiction, about researchers meddling with things they shouldn't meddle with — they're tapping into the five senses of perception, so one person literally experiences brief moments from another person's life. The first half of the movie is thoughtful and fun, and then it gets thoughtful and scary.

Is it dated? Sure. It was the 1980s: Sexual harassment in the workplace is treated as a running joke. The computers and monitors were cutting-edge then, but now seem comically huge and primitive. There's an extended 'hacking' sequence that's ludicrous, even by the normal standards of hacking as it's presented in movies and on TV. But it's still a solid story, that tackles big themes, asks big questions, and answers them credibly.

The movie has an oddly unWalken performance from Christopher Walken — he's lovable, not even slightly creepy, and doesn't do his usual sing-song voice. It's Natalie Wood's last role, and she's great, but her character seems a little crimped (probably because the actress died during filming). There's also a completely kick-ass Louise Fletcher, and no Roman Polanski at all. Recommended.

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