Bringing Out the DeadOctober 22, 1999
A Manhattan ambulance paramedic, overworked and haunted by visions of his failures, fights to keep a tenuous grip on his clarity.
Release Year: 1999
Rating: 6.8/10 (36,040 voted)
Critic's Score: 70/100
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman
An Easter story. Frank is a Manhattan medic, working graveyard in a two-man ambulance team. He's burned out, exhausted, seeing ghosts, especially a young woman he failed to save six months' before, and no longer able to save people: he brings in the dead. We follow him for three nights, each with a different partner: Larry, who thinks about dinner, Marcus, who looks to Jesus, and Tom, who wallops people when work is slow. Frank befriends the daughter of a heart victim he brings in; she's Mary, an ex-junkie, angry at her father but now hoping he'll live. Frank tries to get fired, tries to quit, and keeps coming back, to work and to Mary, in need of his own rebirth.
Writers: Joe Connelly, Paul Schrader
Mary Beth Hurt
Cullen O. Johnson
(as Cullen Oliver Johnson)
Arthur J. Nascarella
(as Arthur Nascarella)
Release Date: 22 October 1999
Filming Locations: 11th Avenue & 54th Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $6,193,052
(24 October 1999)
(9 January 2000)
Did You Know?
When he was promoting the film on Charlie Rose, Scorsese said that one third of his movie was filmed inside ambulances and predominantly at night.
Crew or equipment visible:
Just before Mrs. Burke and Frank climb into the back of the ambulance at the hospital, the camera and its operator are reflected in the open ambulance door
You'll be going to the man who needs no introduction. Chronic caller of the year three straight and shooting for number four. The duke of drunk, the king of stink, our most frequent flier, Mr. Oh.
A brilliant film
Bringing out the Dead, unfortunately, has fewer fans than it deserves. Why?
Because this isn't simply a "New York" movie, or a movie about a paramedic,
or about euthenasia, despite the ostensible setting and plot points.
Instead, Scorsese has created a cinematic myth about how haunted modern
existence can be, and what it takes to be "saved" and find grace in a
seemingly godless world. His vision of New York is all literate existential
comedy, not a window into the rotten Big Apple. Mere satiric commentary on
the tragedy of life in New York is for journeyman directors; Scorsese is
doing something else entirely here.
In other words, this is that really rare beast–a literate film that is,
first and foremost, still a great movie. In the plot and its implications,
there's more here of Flannery O Conner or Virginia Woolf than there is here
of, say, Tom Wolf. More pariticularly, Bringing out the Dead does with
masterful filmmaking what Joyce's The Dead did in prose. This film is a
truly eye-opening investigation into how the living exist in the shadow of
the dead and dying.
The film accomplishes this incredibly difficult task on many levels–the
cinematography alone should give you a clue that this is definitely not Taxi
Driver or Goodfellas–there's something more sublime here (the beauty that
American Beauty explains wonderfully is shown everywhere in this film, but
Bringing out the Dead is less mundane, simple and "character" oriented).
Every shot is right, and the numerous computer effects here–on display
almost for their own sake in The Matrix–are here poetically put together by
a master director.
So, just for it's approach to a subject that few movies or directors would
even attempt, this film will be a classic. Oddly enough, one of the few
movies it can be compared with is Hitchcock's Vertigo, which confronts the
same issues in a different way. Scotty's (Jimmy Stewart) desire to "raise"
the dead is as strong as Frank's, and audiences didn't much like Vertigo
when it was released either.
The acting, the music, the incredible photography–they're all great, if you
realize you are watching a literate, funny, well-plotted (as opposed to
simply plotted) meditation on the ghosts that increasingly inhabit our
Too good for a grade: see it on the biggest, best screen you can while you
can. BTW–it's better the second time.