Mandy – Movie Review – A fever dream of visceral insanity.

Mandy tells the story of a couple whose peaceful harmony is brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult, which propels Red (Nicolas Cage) into a surreal rampage of vengeance, after they capture his girlfriend.

I’d like to make one thing clear straight away. I haven’t seen a film like this before. It becomes very apparent early on that director Panos Cosmatos had a crystal clear vision for what he wanted to do with this film. I’m happy to say that he along with Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb have crafted an artistically mesmerising tale of vengeance. This film is going to linger in my mind for a long time.

At the centre of this narrative is Red portrayed by Nicolas Cage, a man who’s peaceful haven-like home is turned upside down by the arrival of a sinister cult. Cage is excellent here, projecting intense emotions on screen rarely with the assistance of dialogue and mostly using his facial expressions. He also seems right at home when it comes to playing into the crazier tendencies that this role brings. If you are someone who enjoys watching Nic Cage when he overacts, then you’ll love what he’s doing here. He goes full Nic Cage with his performance in the second half of the film, but he does it in such a subdued manner which prevents it from feeling like he’s overacting. His girlfriend Mandy is portrayed by Andrea Riseborough. She was captivating each time she was on screen, and just like Nic she was able to convey so much through her eyes and facial expressions.

Tonally the film strikes a strong balance between a sinister intensity, and near absurdity. You may find yourself laughing every now and again at what’s occurring, but the film is well aware that it’s likely to receive such reaction from you. This results in a wild experience that is very entertaining to watch, especially when things start to escalate during the films second half. The narrative itself as well as the visuals bare a surreal and nightmarish quality to them. Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography is often heavy on the vivid colours, but that helps draw you into a trance-like state as you become fully absorbed by the visuals. The bold and unforgiving use of colour made me think of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The narrative itself will keep you thinking through out the run time, but also after the film ends. It’s very illusive in that sense, it certainly leaves you with things interpret your own way.

Panos Cosmatos’ direction was impressive, especially during the many scenes where the mayhem starts to ensue. There’s a number of set pieces in which he displays a level of finesse behind the camera, to ensure that it’s always clear to see what’s occurring. There are a few moments where the film is essentially assaulting your senses with it’s imagery, and those moments are very engrossing and almost hypnotic. They certainly stand out among the most memorable of the film. The musical score was composed by the late, Johann Jóhannsson. The metal inspired instrumentation matches the intensity, and accompanies the imagery perfectly.

Overall, Mandy is a surreal nightmare brought to life with solid direction, stunning cinematography and a terrific performance from Nicolas Cage. If I were to describe the film with three words I’d choose, vivid, visceral and insanity. It felt like a fever dream of pure madness.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

(5 Stars out of 5)

-T. Graham.

Mandy – Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache and Bill Duke.

Directed by Panos Cosmatos.

Now showing in cinemas.

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