47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
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Martin Scorsese, USA, 1991, 128 minutes
Cape Fear has variously been described as"mesmerising", "harrowing" and "compelling", and is unquestionably a cut above your standard Hollywood thriller. From its inception, Martin Scorsese sets out to captivate his audience with a brilliantly enigmatic and artistic opening.
An update of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 classic, the basic plot remains the same, yet the psychological aspect is played upon, accentuating the intertwining themes of sin, guilt and redemption. Robert De Niro's portrayal of "white trash", ex-con Max Cady, a fiendish psychotic, is chilling in the extreme. Not one to hold back on a role, De Niro, bedecked in biblically inspired tattoos, is fully committed in his single-minded pursuit of vengeance against attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) and his family. The Bowdens are depicted in an unsympathetic light, an upper middle-class family with serious domestic problems, due primarily to Sam's unfaithfulness to his wife Leigh (Jessica Lange), not to mention the menacing intentions of Cady. Unfortunately, their 15-year-old daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis) is caught in the ensuing emotional imbrogli, thus creating an easy target for mad Max, thirsty for revenge against his one-time defence attorney Sam, who, having witnessed his horrifying crimes of violent rape, buried vital evidence which could have saved Cady from a 14 year prison sentence.
The acting is magnificent throughout, with very powerful performances coming from De Niro and Nolte, and 17-year-old Juliette Lewis, making her screen debut, is superb in conveying vulnerability as a potential victim. The remarkable direction, the great camera work and the clever editing, coupled with a spine-chilling musical score, keep the audience on edge, eventually working up to a nerve-wracking climax, which to be fair is slightly over the top. Nevertheless, Cape Fear merits its huge success and is a must-see movie.
Review by Alasdair Carnie
Taken from EUFS Programme 1992-93