With its political assassination plot line Brain De Palma’s killer thriller Blow Out is a superb movie as much about the evil machinations behind a murder cover up as it is about the process of movie making itself.
With a career spanning decades and multiple genres’ De Palma is one of the great visionary directors known for his untouchably great gangster movies Scarface, Carlito’s Way and The Untouchables he also successfully transferred Stephen King’s Carrie to the big screen and made a whole host of Hitchcock homage’s including Dressed to Kill, Obsession and Body Double.
De Palma’s brilliance comes from his borrowing and referencing other movies and directors yet always managing to innovate and interestingly explore the same themes and ideas while making a movie that is all his own.
Blow Out is no exception the title itself both a reflection of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup, which it shares several motifs with, as well as a reference to the incident which the whole story revolves around and movie soundman Jack Terry (John Travolta) finds himself recording one dark night.
Out getting sound effects for the latest low budget horror film he is working on Jack hears two bangs and sees a car crash off the road and into a nearby creek. Dashing to the accident and diving in he sees a dead man in the vehicle and a woman very much alive who he manages to save.
At the hospital latter that night the identity of the deceased is revealed to Jack as a popular governor and presidential hopeful who had been out with his mistress when the tire had blown out and the car had crashed.
Jack is convinced however that there is more to the story than what he saw and is told and listening to his recording he comes across the sound of a gun shot.
Determined to prove that the governor was murdered Jack sets about gathering evidence but the more he digs the harder things become for him and soon he starts to fear for his own life which he believes may be ended and covered up just like everything else.
With a gripping story Blow Out is a riveting thriller helped by some cracking performances primarily from Travolta as well as Nancy Allen who plays the mysterious mistress and Dennis Franz and John Lithgow who are both involved in the darker side of what is going on.
Packed with shady deals, conspiracy theories and paranoia De Palma’s film is pure fiction yet the parallels to historical events such as the assassination of JFK are obvious.
Most interesting of all like Peeping Tom before it and Berbarian Sound Studio after, both horror masterpieces, Blow Out is a film about film. From the opening one shot stalker tracking shot through a dorm of nubile naked teens ending in a knife attack and revealed to be part of the film Jack is working on, hilariously titled Coed Frenzy, the themes of filming, recording, editing and watching constantly come up.
Action packed the movie has some truly awesome stand out scenes including a crazy car crash through a parade and some terrifyingly tense moments all stylishly shot and looking amazing on the crystal clear Blu-Ray transfer.
Like all De Palma’s best films Blow Out works on multiple levels all of them as valid and engaging as each other and this depth in all areas from story to stylization to subliminal exploration of several different subjects is what makes it such a great movie.