I added this film to my Netflix queue mistaking it at first for Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up. When I found out that I was instead going to be watching another Brian De Palma thriller, I was a bit worried. I didn't know that the two films were loosely related, or that Blow Out would turn out pretty damn decent.
Possibly original at the time (but now seems a bit contrived because of the Scream franchise) Blow Out begins with a movie-inside-a-movie. It is then revealed that the protagonist, Jack, is the sound editor at a studio that manufactures soft-core slasher porn flicks. While Jack is off recording effects one night, he witnesses a car accident that ends up killing a prominent governor. He catches it all on tape, and begins a conspiracy theory that the crash was not simply a freak accident, but an assassination.
While this is more or less a typical thriller, it is quite a bit of fun to watch and has a surprisingly complex plot. Brian De Palma really found a perfect stylistic balance between over the top 70's effects and boring and unoriginal cinematography. De Palma uses split-screen in the beginning to set up a fast paced tone. There are also shots with such deep focus that they become dreamlike, adding to the suspense and mystery. The climax of the film takes place during a firework show at a liberty celebration. This scene is one of the most visually stunning uses of colored gels I have seen yet, as the light from the multi-toned fireworks reflect onto the characters faces.
One thing that did bother me about this film, however, is the vapid and uninteresting female love interest, Sally. The drama of the situation did prevent any romance from truly developing, however. Both Sally and Jack have relatively flat personalities. They are defined by what is happening to them, rather than their nature. So I would say character development is the one stand-out weakness in this film. In contrast, one of the greatest thing about Blow Out is the ending. I love the technique of bookending a film. I wish I could talk about this ending without giving anything away. I will say though, it is an incredibly bleak punchline of sorts that mirrors the initial scene in a very clever way.
And so, unlike Sisters, the first movie I reviewed on this blog, Brian De Palma creates a memorable, suspenseful, and stylistic thriller (with just a few flaws) in Blow Out.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars