Blow Out (1981)
Plot: A movie sound effects recordist while recording sounds one night inadvertently ends up recording the evidence of murder which results in him being engulfed in danger.
Review: John Travolta plays Jack Terry, a sound effects recordist who is working on a horror b-movie. One night while recording sounds, he accidentally records a car crash. His recording proves that the crash was in fact not an accident but attempted murder. Jack is an inherently good guy who no matter what just wants to do the right thing. A bit of a conspiracy theorist he inadvertently finds himself smack dab in the midst of a conspiracy. Travolta plays him with full earnestness. You can see him get fully engulfed in the mystery.
Nancy Allen plays Sally who Jack manages to save from the crash. Jack instantaneously develops an empathetic spot for the soft-spoken Sally but soon discovers that her being in the car deepens the mystery. Allen conveys the meekness of her character convincingly.
John Lithgow plays Burke, a sinister being. He showcases the cold and calculating traits of his character with conviction.
Brian De Palma’s direction is top-notch. The shot compositions are at times so bold and intricate it seems as if De Palma was showboating his skills. There is undeniable brilliance in his visuals. He succeeds in sucking you into the film, making you feel the excitement and tension which he has created.
Brian De Palma who also wrote the film weaves a solid web of mystery and suspense. There are also few surprising moments of humor sprinkled in the scenes involving the post-production of the b-movie which work quite well. A minor issue I had with the story is that a few plot points regarding certain characters do remain unanswered which I felt didn’t need to be left ambiguous.
The cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond is striking. A split-focus dioptre lens is used in several scenes which when attached to the main lens affects only the left or right portion of the main lens’s view changing the focal distance of part of the image allowing objects at two distances in the foreground or background to be in sharp focus. The resultant shot’s efficacy is captivating.
The music scored by Pino Donnagio is like a crescendo. It amplifies the ominous nature of the story filling you with dread.
Watching the tools of filmmaking being used by the lead character to uncover a mystery is fascinatingly entertaining. It is a taut neo-noir thriller with excellent direction by De Palma, featuring one of Travolta’s finest performances. For any budding filmmaker, this cult classic should be a must-see.
My Rating: 8/10