I just saw “Point Break” for the first time. I have no idea why I never saw this film before — after all, it has been around for twenty years. But there you have it. The only reason I saw it is now that I am going through the entire oeuvre of its director, Katherine Bigelow, one film at a time. So far I’ve seen “The Loveless”, “Near Dark”, “Point Break”, “Strange Days”, and of course “The Hurt Locker”, which means I’m just short of having seen half her films.
The astonishing thing about “Point Break” is that — in sheer movie terms — it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen, in spite of a premise that is completely ridiculous. I don’t mean a flawed premise. I mean an in-your-face, pointedly, aggressively ridiculous premise, one that practically puts on a clown suit with pink bunny ears, sticks a banana up its nose and dances the cha-cha on the ceiling with your pet goldfish.
And yet the film works, and works completely, due to utter conviction of execution at every level under the expert directorial command of Ms. Bigelow. I suspect this is true of every Bigelow film. Think back to when you saw “The Hurt Locker”. Psychologically that film takes you to some pretty strange places, and demands an awful lot of faith from its audience. Imagine the same material in the hands of a hack director — it could have been excruciatingly bad, bordering on offensive. But in Katherine Bigelow’s genius hands, it brought you deep into the minds of its characters, going on to win a richly deserved Best Picture Oscar in the process.
Maybe it’s actually a good quality of “Point Break” that its fundamental idea, the situation it asks us to accept, is so completely insane and nonsensical that the audience, once won over by the sheer intensity and conviction up there on the screen, is won over completely.
I wonder whether she could pull this off with any premise. Could there be a premise for a movie that is so crazy that even Katherine Bigelow couldn’t turn it into a great film? I’m open to suggestions.