An Oldie but Goodie: Strange Days, 90's Cyberpunk, and Still Relevant

I wonder how many of you reading this have seen the 1995 movie Strange Days?
From its box office take, probably not many. It's a shame, it really is, because the movie is great (and much like Dredd, a victim of bad marketing and poor assumptions). It stars Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, and Vincent D'Onofrio. Set in what was then the future world of 1999, the movie centers around Lenny Nero, an ex-cop turned black-market experience dealer who stumbles across evidence of a racially motivated killing that could send a city getting ready to celebrate the turning of the millennium into chaos.

Wait a minute, did I just write "experience dealer?" Why, yes I did. What Lenny deals in are people's memories and experiences, recorded by the revolutionary technology called SQUID (Super-conducting Quantum Interface Device), which records the experiences of the individual wearing it in digital form for later playback. In the world of Strange Days SQUID recordings are supposed to be restricted to federal and police use, but that doesn't stop people like Lenny from making a buck off of it—not that he's very good at it.

Lenny may be the ultimate salesman, but he's a loser at almost everything else he does, including handling the money he makes and the relationships he tries to have. However, despite his failings as a person, Lenny still has the desire to help people that made him join the police force in the first place, which is why when he stumbles across a SQUID clip showing a heinous crime and his friends start dying, he can't just ignore it.

Written by James Cameron, Strange Days holds up to the test of time. For those of us who lived through the 90's, it'll be something of a blast from the past with a futuristic twist, and for those that didn't, many of the themes explored in Strange Days are (sadly) still plaguing society today (racism, police abuse, etc.) In some ways the film is even more poignant as its premise revolves around the use of escapism style virtual reality and the ability for an average citizen to record crimes committed by authority figures. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you pick it up, and if you have, it's definitely worth a rewatch.


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