There are two things that Nicolas Cage is known for, being really weird and doing really weird movies. Well, it looks like he has finally found a film where both of those things have worked in his favor. The hype surrounding this film started all the way at Sundance during its initial premiere. The vast praise of its retro 1980s artistic style and over the top theatrics was too much to look past for this weekend. So the question is, does the film live up to the hype? I say so.
Set virtually the middle of nowhere during the 1980s, Nicolas Cage stars as Red Miller (real name BTW) a man who lives a very simple life with his significant other Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). One night, however, Red’s life is destroyed when a group of religious cultists and some drugged up psychopaths kidnaps them and murders Mandy in front of him. With his entire life broken, Red’s only reason to keep going is to seek vengeance against the people who wronged him, sending Red on a path of total destruction.
Mandy is a film that has a lot of style to love. There are many arthouse themes here but I wouldn’t exactly call this an Arthouse movie. Director Panos Cosmatos and Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb deserve high praise for their artistic vision of the film. The visuals here are like a hybrid between a psychedelic acid trip and a live-action Heavy Metal adaptation. The camerawork is mostly static and works to keep the story within the frame with long takes, just like another great film Columbus from last year.
The work behind the camera is stellar, in front of the camera the film is carried by the flamboyantly disturbing performance of Linus Roache. While Nicholas Cage is getting all the praise for his performance, you actually don’t see much of him for the first half of the film. Building up the tension and craziness is actually Roache who plays the self-conscience radical cult leader who demands to be viewed as a god. With a performance that mirrors Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, Roache is the setup but Cage is the one who drives it home. Unhinged is the best way to describe this performance, it isn’t made clear if Cage’s character was already nuts or if the death of his girl drove him to insanity which honestly makes the film more bizarre. The film does hint to a darker past of Red Miller but it is only briefly mentioned. One thing is certain when Cage loses it, that’s where the fun begins.
The score of the movie is presented by the late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and the song selection will make fans of Ozzy Osbourne’s Boneyard very happy. The only negative I could point out is that the film is a slow build and it really takes about an hour for things to pick up so if you are watching this film as a recommendation, just remember it does take a while for things to pick up for mainstream audiences. Otherwise, Mandy is a technical feat that has all the makings of a cult classic.