Desk-bound CIA agent Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) is forced into early retirement when he discovers he has early onset dementia. Yet at the same he finds out that his former tormentor, Jihadist Muhhamed Banir, is not dead as thought for the past two decades but is alive and living of experimental medical treatment. Along with Milton Schultz (Anton Yelchin), a young CIA agent, Lake sets off to track down his nemesis before it is too late for both of them.
Dying Of The Light comes from some big hitters of the film industry – written and directed by Paul Schrader, the man responsible for American Gigolo, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and others, and it is executive produced by Nicholas Winding Refn, director of Drive and Only God Forgives. Nic Cage has been choosing some poor films roles of late, but surely working with Schrader and Refn would see a return to Rage Cage?
In fact, it’s the complete opposite here; it’s a quiet and subdued performance that tries to look at the deeper symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that affects many people who have been in war situations. The film has to be commended for actually making a very relevant point about the lack of help for people with PTSD, and it does that very well as Cage flirts between everyday normal and almost an alternate reality that he cannot escape from until those visions and thoughts subside. Nobody truly cares or is interested in what he is going through. Instead they just wheel him off like some sort of nut job. These are powerful moments, but sadly the rest of the film lets it all down as it’s interspersed with this man hunt that is taking place.
The storyline moves from location to location in the blink of an eye, even making a quick jump over to Europe and then to the Middle East. With just Lake and Schultz on the case it’s a very lightweight approach to bringing down a man who is supposedly very dangerous.
Lightweight is in fact the entire problem with the film. When the action does finally kick off it’s very clunky and lacks the frenetic pace that should be happening in these situations. The gunplay is all sorts of heavy handed too, encapsulated in a scene by the pool where guns are fired so rapidly from many different sources yet still manage to miss everyone and everything – even the sun-loungers. The lightweight extends to the script as well, as the film tries to feel more comfortable by explaining everything despite possessing such clichéd dialogue. It’s all so flat-footed that Cage hams up most of his dialogue in-between bouts of rubbing his head or forgetting which hotel he is staying in – even Cage looks bored of it all.
Dying Of The Light should be making a statement about the problem of PTSD that affects millions of people around the world. Yet it never finishes what it starts, instead reverting to a revenge/spy movie that doesn’t know where it should be going.