The Stunt Man

"Essential"

The Stunt Man Review


From the very first shot -- of an eagle sitting on a light pole -- to the very last scene, The Stunt Man is the most exuberant piece of kinetic filmmaking ever produced. I daresay it's also one of the best American films of the 1980s, and, ironically, one of the most overlooked and unknown. Moreover, at a danger of sounding banal, I have to confess that it is one of my favorite films of all time. The Stunt Man is a film about making a film, a motion picture that generates a riveting, scintillating spell and, like no other film, exemplifies everything that cinema is: illusion, make-belief, obsession, control, and romance.

The film follows Cameron (Steve Railsback), a former Vietnam soldier, who is sought by the police and FBI. He is a street-smart savage and a criminal with unblinking tension in widened, wild eyes. Even motionless, he seems to be running from something. Soon he's on the run from the cops, and finds himself witnessing the shooting of a film. When the scene is over and the director, Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole), descends from the helicopter, the camera is looking at him from down below -- he is at once God and Devil, and he brings with him an air of greatness and unfathomable mystery. Peter O'Toole is brilliant in a role of megalomaniacal film director: He is imperial, bitter-tongued and controlling. He carries his madness in the blue arrogance of his eyes, in the deep wrinkles of his face and sinister sleeves of his black turtleneck. When he is looking down on Cameron from the helicopter's window, he seems to be gazing right into Cameron's soul. They strike a deal and Cameron becomes someone else -- a stunt man, an actor, and a fugitive -- in the movie. If he works it all out, it could mean having one more chance to lose, and Richard Rush exploits the twists and turns of Cameron's adventures with exuberance and unpredictable inventiveness.

What needs to be understood about The Stunt Man is that at the core of the film's mind games is a celebration of the moviegoing experience. Eli swings by in his helicopter, a tyrannical film director obsessed with his picture and his own version of life and people, both real and imaginary. Like Cameron, whose past and paranoia are at Eli's mercy, the viewers can't separate where the film ends and reality begins. Eli is obsessed with making his film, Cameron is convinced that Eli wants to kill him, and the viewers, wondering if Cameron would make it, become engrossed in the film in ways that are healthy and ways that are not.

As seen through Cameron's eyes, how much of the plot can we believe? Which is more unbelievable: that Eli Cross wants to kill Cameron or that a desperate soldier, before dying, is dancing the Charleston on the wing of an airplane? And what about Nina (Barbara Hershey), a star actress in both films, Cameron's lover and Eli's muse -- is she also part of the plot against Cameron? And what about Cameron himself? Following him in every shot of the film, how do we know he is just a reckless fellow fallen prey to hapless circumstances and not a serial killer?

Part of The Stunt Man's irresistible appeal is the philosophy that films are our imagination, dreams, and nightmares. They are not abstract, logical, or objective. The idea of transubstantiation -- that is what cinema is. Watching this film, you have to believe in everything and in nothing at all. It is easy to be frustrated with The Stunt Man, misunderstand it and miss the point. But if you get the film, its clever dialogue and biting sharp humor, you will fall in love with it.

The DVD features two deleted scenes, a commentary track from Rush and some of his compatriots, and the full screenplay (accessible via a DVD-ROM drive).



The Stunt Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 131 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 25th February 1981

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

Production compaines: Simon Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Eli Cross, as Cameron, as Nina Franklin, as Sam (as Allen Goorwitz), as Police Chief Jake, as Denise, as Raymond Bailey, as Ace, Charles Bailey as Chuck Barton, John Garwood as Gabe, Jim Hess as Henry, John Pearce as Garage Guard, as Burt, George D. Wallace as Father, Dee Carroll as Mother, Leslie Winograde as Sister

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.