Snake Eyes (De Palma, 1998, USA)

Snake Eyes arrived in the wake of Brian De Palma's late-career renaissance, following the success of 1996's Mission: Impossible. The film paired the legendary auteur with Nicolas Cage, who was arguably at the peak of his box office stardom at the time. Snake Eyes also was De Palma's third collaboration with mega-successful Hollywood scribe David Koepp, perhaps best known for adapting Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park in 1993. While Snake Eyes was a box office success, its critical reception was more mixed. Roger Ebert went so far as to award the film a mere 1 star out of 4.

It is easy to see why Snake Eyes was critically polarizing. Unlike Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes finds De Palma less constrained by the stylistic flourishes that came to define his career. The film is essentially a whodunit set entirely within the confines of a boxing arena in Atlantic City. Cage plays Rick Santoro, a corrupt Atlantic City police detective who is at the fight, who encounters his longtime friend US Navy Commander Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise) at the fight. An assassination attempt happens very early in the script, thus leading our protagonist to attempt to piece together the clues of what happened.

While Snake Eyes is perhaps one of the weaker scripts De Palma has attached his name to, the film nevertheless is engaging for its display of virtuoso filmmaking. Of particular note include the opening, which appears almost as one single Steadicam shot following Cage's character throughout the casino. Some shots trace multiple rooms from overhead, in one of the film's most incredible aspects. Snake Eyes is perhaps not the best De Palma film for the uninitiated, but for those who are familiar with the director, it is an enjoyable later career exercise in tension from the director, with a great performance from Cage.



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