Directed by Douglas Trumbull, Brainstorm follows researchers Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher) and Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) as they develop a technology that allows the user to see and hear another person’s experiences – with problems ensuing after the military decides it wants to co-opt the futuristic equipment for their own nefarious purposes. It’s an intriguing premise that is, at the outset, employed to fairly compelling effect by Trumbull, as the filmmaker does a superb job of establishing the characters and the unapologetically ’80s landscape in which they reside (ie the set design here is dated yet fascinating). There’s little doubt, as well, that the movie benefits substantially from its portrayal of the aforementioned technology, as Trumbull and cinematographer Richard Yuricich have infused these scenes with a decidedly eye-popping sensibility that’s heightened by changes in the movie’s aspect ratio (ie the image expands whenever it’s from the perspective of the device). It’s disappointing to note, then, that Brainstorm fizzles out rather demonstrably as it passes the one-hour mark, as scripters Robert Stitzel and Philip Frank Messina slowly-but-surely begin emphasizing elements of a decidedly (and distressingly) generic nature – with the picture transforming into a fairly run-of-the-mill thriller that’s hardly as creative and forward-thinking as its first half. By the time the frustratingly esoteric, 2001: A Space Odyssey-like final stretch rolls around, Brainstorm has unfortunately cemented its place as an ambitious yet disastrously unfocused misfire from a thoroughly talented filmmaker.
** out of ****