Picks and Pans Review: Brainstorm

updated 10/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Audiences may find themselves of two minds about Brainstorm. As a computer-age thriller, its vivid special effects help compensate for a standard and sometimes silly plot. However, as Natalie Wood's last movie, Brainstorm is something else again—a chance for her admirers to bid farewell. Natalie's death in a boat accident 22 months ago occurred just five days short of completing her role. Director Douglas (Silent Running) Trumbull finished the film without resorting to tricks, doubles or jarring plot devices. It helped that Wood's character is peripheral to most of the action. The late actress is cast as the estranged wife of Christopher (The Deer Hunter) Walken, a scientist collaborating with workaholic Louise Fletcher on a "brainstorm" device enabling one person's thoughts, feelings and even nightmares to be recorded on videotape and transferred intact to another person's brain. Cliff Robertson plays the corporate bigwig who sees the evil potential in the invention. In interviews Trumbull has speculated that the advances in cybernetics, holography and computer imagery may soon make "brainstorm" a reality. Fortunately, the movie is a good deal more fun than such poppycock suggests. Since video images can be made of everything from a coronary to an orgasm, the cinematic possibilities are endless, and Trumbull and his lab wizards make the most of them. He fails only when he tries to create an abstract visualization of death. The idea is an ambitious notion worthy of Stanley Kubrick, but out of Trumbull's artistic grasp. Still, the actors perform way beyond the call of sci-fi duty, especially Fletcher, who does her juiciest work since winning the Oscar for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And, of course, there's Wood, whose dark-eyed loveliness and keen intelligence shine through the flimsy material. She doesn't dominate Brainstorm, but she alone makes it luminous. (PG)

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