Mandy (2018)

Mandy (2018 film).pngDirector: Panos Cosmatos
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke

With a later careers largely composed of cheap, straight to DVD fare, it can be easy to forget how great an actor Nicolas Cage truly is. Among the pissing fire and screaming about bees, there's real talent building within, looking for the chance to break out. Consider this that opportunity as, like a chestburster from Alien, it bursts out of Cage coated in blood, ready to wreak havoc, and having a ball while doing it.

It is 1983, and lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) live in a secluded cabin in the woods with his girlfriend, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). Their idyllic lives are shattered by a crazed cult leader (Linus Roache), leading to a spiral into a nightmarish tale of vengeance.

The best he's been in a while, Nicolas Cage is tremendous as Red Miller. He certainly takes the time to play the wacky persona that's a great time to watch his perform, but he does it all with a grounding of his character motivations. This isn't him being kooky and over the top for the heck of it, his character has been to hell and back, and just wants his blood soaked pound of flesh. The standout moment sees him in the bathroom, as his anguish and rage come out, resulting in an absolutely heartbreaking scene that's a highlight in his varied career.

In playing the eponymous Mandy, Andrea Riseborough is an entrancing presence. Thankfully, she hasn't been relegated to the typical cliché role one tends to expect, proving to be an engaging and strong character in her own right. She carries some clear hurt from her past, as evidenced in an engrossing speech involving starlings, and prefers to be living away from the world, secluded near Crystal Lake (a nod for horror fans). But that isn't what defines her, as Mandy looks danger in the face, and cuts through it with just her laughter.

Key to this film is the central relationship, as Red and Mandy find comfort in one another, tenderly played by the central performers. A conversation about their favourite planets feels real, as Red jokingly talks about Galactus, while Mandy mentions Jupiter, complete with its destructive force of a hurricane. When Red eventually becomes Jupiter, the proceedings get soaked in blood and fantastically done gore, but what's key is how clear the beating heart remains. There's a knowing sense of tragedy amongst it all, as no matter how many involved parties are brutally murdered, the past cannot be undone.

The antagonist comes in the form of Jeremiah Sands, a Charles Manson like figure who carries a high opinion of himself. He inflates his own ego at whatever opportunity to try and feel important, while also hiding how fragile and small he truly is. With the knowledge this role was written with Cage in mind, it's clear to see which parts would've fit in with his traditional on-screen persona, but Linus Roache works wonders with the material. He makes the role his own, playing it with a clear relish for the material, while proving to be a compelling figure.

From the trailer alone, it's clear who are the two main stars to this film. The cinematography by Benjamin Loeb is a treat for the eyes, resembling a stylish album cover seen for a metal band, which keys up well with the magnificent score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, which is a sad reminder that this is his final work. Both of these elements bring alive this fantastic journey, making for an utterly unique vision.

Mandy is a tale of love and loss, brought alive by stunning visuals, and performers at the top of their games. Panos Cosmatos has delivered one of the must see films of 2018, even if it's just to see what side you fall on for such a divisive feature.