Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman
Trivia: Director Martin Scorsese provides the voice of the male dispatcher
Bringing Out the Dead is the story of Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage), a burned-out paramedic who's haunted by the ghosts of those he was unable to save. We follow Frank as he hits the streets with three different partners: Larry (John Goodman), who's more interested in his next meal than he is saving lives; Marcus (Ving Rhames), a religious zealot who's part medic / part faith healer; and Tom (Tom Sizemore), an out-and-out psychopath. One night, while responding to a call, Frank meets Mary (Patricia Arquette), the daughter of a heart attack victim. Frank feels an instant connection with Mary, and believes she may be the one who'll bring a little order to his mixed-up life, while also helping him exorcise the spirits of those who died on his watch.
Bringing out the Dead has given me a better understanding of how emotionally difficult life as a paramedic must be. You often hear about doctors “shutting off” their feelings while on the job, which they do in order to maintain their sanity. As a philosophy, this makes perfect sense, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone their sanity, especially when the work they perform is so vital. Doctors, however, have one advantage that paramedics do not; whereas a physician will usually deal with the sick in a neutral location, like their office or even a hospital, a paramedic must occasionally enter their patient’s home, and I would imagine performing CPR on a cardiac arrest victim while surrounded by that person’s loved ones, all the while staring at family photographs hanging on the wall, would make a level of emotional detachment extremely difficult to sustain. How, exactly, do you turn off your feelings when forced to function under these conditions? Frank couldn’t, and, as a result, he's coming apart at the seams.
One of the makings of a good film is how successful it is at bringing you into its world, forcing you to think about what it is you're seeing. Bringing Out the Dead caused me to do this very thing. So, putting aside for a moment the excellent performances (Nicolas Cage conveys his character's angst perfectly) and predictably solid direction of Martin Scorsese, I must conclude that Bringing Out the Dead is, indeed, a very good film.