Cinematographer: Dante Spinotti
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Stella Arroyave, Christian Slater, Michael Clark Duncan, John Turturro, Camryn Manheim, Jeffrey Tambor
Studio/Run Time: Strand Releasing, 96 mins.
Slipstream is a strange, off-kilter little movie. Anthony Hopkins, who at this point in his career can do pretty much whatever he wants, wrote a stream-of-consciousness screenplay a few years ago about a man whose mind devolves into chaos. He then decided to direct the film, saying he “wanted to break the movie ‘rules,’ dislocate the format.”
He succeeds. The first 20 minutes of the movie will make many viewers blink a lot, wondering what they've gotten themselves into. Editor Michael R. Miller deserves accolades for stringing together disparate and jumpy images into something resembling the inner workings of an imploding mind. Hopkins himself plays Felix Bonhoeffer, a writer who finds his grip on reality slipping as he works on his final screenplay and discovers that the lines separating fact from fiction are blurring together.
Seemingly, Hopkins intended to throw his audience into Bonhoeffer’s confused state with this lurching, stuttering visual style and whirlygig plot hanging somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. Calling to mind old methods of planting subliminal messages into a viewer's subconscious, the opening title flickers briefly between “Slipstream” and “dream,” and the whole movie rewinds beneath the final credits to end with the beginning.
There are some great actors here that slip expertly into ambiguous characters that may or may not be who they appear to be. In particular, Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) turns in a maniacally funny performance as...himself? A fictitious actor named Jeffrey? A gangster? A doctor? It's hard to say. Even Kevin McCarthy of Invasion of the Body Snatchers fame shows up as himself, sort of. Much of the film is beautifully shot, with ultra-saturated coloring morphing at random on a film set built 25 years ago in the Mojave desert for Eye of the Beholder.
Slipstream meanders into some lucidity by film's end, but it remains difficult to determine if it’s a work born of genius or madness. The decision lies with the viewer.