The film, “Bringing Out the Dead” is a non-stop roller coaster ride that covers the frantic pace of the night-shift of Manhattan paramedics. In “Bringing Out the Dead,” Paul Schrader reveals what makes them tick in a short time. Nicolas Cage stars as Frank Pierce on a emotional thunder road. To cope with his nightmares, he drinks. He has deep-seeded anger and is a burnt-out paramedic. He is disillusioned because he can no longer save his patients like he used to.
Pierce says, “I had this wonderful glow after I saved a person’s life.” It was a high he would stay on for weeks at a time. When he helped someone, he said it was like helping himself. The problem is, he is unforgiving of himself when he loses a patient he is trying to save. Now all he sees are the ghosts of the people he lost, especially Rosa a young girl who had overdosed on drugs.
Just about every night before he starts his shift. Pierce tries to get fired.
Pierce says to his boss, “I thought you said if I came in late, you would fire me?”
His boss says, “Yes I know I did, but I’ll fire you tomorrow.”
Sometimes he just quits, but that only lasts a short while. It’s already too late, it’s in his blood. Each night Pierce has a different partner with him covering the dark, mean streets. One partner is Larry (John Goodman) who takes his job in stride. Another one, Marcus, is a zealous religious man that believes that he can raise the dead with prayer. And Tom, who is totally off the wall and violent. All of them, including Pierce, are a little crazy.
The thought here is they would have to be crazy to carry on with the never ending pressures of on-the-job paramedics. Pierce’s love interest enters on the scene on one of his calls with Larry to save a heart attack victim. Pierce saves the father of Mary Lloyd (Patricia Arquette). He runs into her several times while she visits the hospital where Pierce drops off his patients.
Mary is a complicated person. She is not always what she seems on the surface, but Pierce’s budding love for her makes him begin to feel he has started to turn things around in his life. In facing his demons, Pierce has come to the realization that he is a grief-station for distraught families. He feels that he is there to help some people to have the will to let go and die.
Periodically, Pierce tries to help Noel who often ends up at the ER. Noel has brain damage from a previous accident. The role of Noel is played expertly as a zany character one cannot reason with.
Part of the film’s success is the magic digital/laser type lights that flash on the screen whenever the ambulance is speeding down the street, in the dream sequences and when seeing the ghosts. The music by Elmer Bernstein matches well for each occasion; although, after awhile, it is so loud all the time it begins to wear on one’s ears. The noise can be like a punishment.
Cage hits just the right intensity for his part of Frank in “Bringing Out the Dead.” Arquette plays Mary as a determined yet mixed-up person. She conveys it well.
This is definitely a dark film and certainly not for all audiences or the squeamish of hearts. Director Martin Scorsese has made a risk-taking movie at a high level. Not everyone could make “Bringing Out the Dead” like this and make it work. It is right up Scorsese’s fire-paved alley.