Working All the Angles

The catch here--or should I say the conspiracy?--is that neither the cop nor the filmmaker is practicing his craft independently. Each is working in an arena. In Snake Eyes, the mogul at the top of the heap is a zillionaire industrialist-cum-casino developer with ties to weapons manufacturers, government heavies, and the news media. (Small wonder De Palma is reportedly considering a Howard Hughes bio-pic for his next project, with Cage in the lead role.) Ultimately, as the arena/casino/Pentagon is revealed to be one big infotainment conglomerate, the test for De Palma is whether he can transcend his assignment as an auteur-for-hire within the summer-movie superstructure, delivering final cut and a singular point of view before the whole thing self-destructs ("Your mission, should you choose to accept it...").

Showman: Nicolas Cage in Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes
Showman: Nicolas Cage in Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes

And does he pull it off? Well, it's a measure of his ingenuity as the modern Master of Suspense that, having turned the conditions of his studio contract into the film's topic, the artist withholds his signature until the final seconds. Without giving it away, De Palma's jewel of a final shot suggests that even amid the construction of a concrete corporate monstrosity, some glimmer of personality remains.

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