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Brainstorm

Year: 1983
Studio: MGM
Director: Douglas Trumbull
Producer: Douglas Trumbull
Cast: Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson
I will just never get used to Christopher Walken. When he was young, he played a lot of roles where he was the hero with everyman appeal, but he always just looked like a psychopathic killer with mildly bad dress sense.

That quibble out of the way, Brainstorm was the progenitor of a subject that never goes out of style, and at the time of its release, the media age was well and truly cranking up with the storming on society of the home video recorder and camcorder. What director Douglas Trumbull and characters Michael (Walken), Karen (Wood) and Lillian (Fletcher) must think about today's anything/anytime, downloadable, always-on media boggles the mind.

It spawned the sub-genre taken further in everything from Strange Days to The Matrix, that living inside a simulation so realistic we mistake it for real life is something to be terrified of and paranoid about, especially when foisted on us by the interests that hold sway over what we think already (everything from media conglomerates to evil alien robots).

Michael and Lillian are trying to develop the ultimate virtual reality experience before the term was coined - by recording and playing back real experiences on a special headset, ultimately for sale as the entertainment product to end them all.

Cue the heavies from the government and higher ups, who chuck Michael and Lillian off the project when they realise the military applications of the research, and after a co-worker records his own death, Michael has to fight his way back in (using a very early 80s version of remote hacking) to get hold of the recording. Seemingly at odds with the plot (by this time all the political intrigue has been more or less exhausted by the story) doing so and playing it seems to send him to a nirvana his estranged wife (Wood) barely rescues him from.

It's dated (as are all films dealing with technology), but if you can look past all that the idea's sound - albeit old hat now.

And for trivia fans, the ending had to be slightly re-engineered to accommodate Natalie Wood's premature death.

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