"Brainstorm" is the science fiction film that was almost left unfinished because of star Natalie Wood's death in an accident unrelated to the shooting. It was worth waiting for, but obscurities and a flawed ending could turn off critics, who will probably determine its boxoffice fate.
"Brainstorm" is unusually mature for a science fiction film. For most of its length, it works outs the consequences of its intriguing premise-a machine permits its user to view the world through other people's experiences-without ever boring us or condescending to us. The characters are sketched in, but Douglas Trumbull is a surprisingly good director of actors. Louise Fletcher and Christopher Walken in particular give interesting, quirky performances that make their obsessed scientists into appealing figures.
Technical credits (including Trumbull's Entertainment Effects Group) are state of the art, and then some. Shooting the "This Is Cinerama"-style sensory playback scenes in 70mm works beautifully. It will also give audiences a chance to sample 35 and 70 side by side and thereby to appreciate the qualities of the larger format.
Some scenes might have been cut or altered because of Wood's untimely death, but the seams don't show. The final credits appropriately carry a dedication "To Natalie," who is very touching in the film.
It's hard to predict audience response to this one. The thriller ending is pretty hokey, but audiences didn't seem to mind that in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," for which Trumbull did the effects. Others might object to some deliberate plot obscurities, but in the long run obscurity certainly didn't hurt "2001: A Space Odyssey," another impor-tant film to which Trumbull made an important contribution. FLASHBACK: NOVEMBER, 1983
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