Waking the Dead

 (174)6.51 h 45 min2000R
When one man's 70's idealism confronts his 80's aspirations, he begins an emotional rollercoaster that brings ghosts back to life and asks the ultimate question: Does love conquer all, even death?
Keith Gordon
Billy CrudupJennifer ConnellyMolly Parker
English [CC]
Audio languages
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4.4 out of 5 stars

174 global ratings

  1. 65% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 21% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 3% of reviews have 3 stars
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  5. 5% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Donna K. HarveyReviewed in the United States on December 28, 2018
5.0 out of 5 starsThought provoking to say the least
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I loved this movie. The acting was wonderful but that was to be expected considering who the lead actors were.
Some people were a little confused and perhaps those people like all questions answered in concrete at the end of the movie, but I think it doesn't matter in this case. That's not the message. The message is sacrifice and the message is enduring love that doesn't die. These are the messages that the movie sends. These are worth contemplation. I think a good movie, a good novel, or a good poem, leaves us thinking about it long after the last page has been read or the last scene has been played and this movie delivered in spades.
7 people found this helpful
amy bownReviewed in the United States on July 12, 2017
5.0 out of 5 starsKrudup dazzles and shines
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Billy Krudup is one of those actors who are incapable of a false note. When he was younger, I was dazzled by his beauty (those cheekbones!) but then I realized he isn't just a pretty boy. He is a serious, Tony-award winning actor and one of the best in the business. The scene where Fielding breaks down at the restaurant table is so authentic, I cried my eyes out. I had that exact same experience in my own life once, and it was uncanny how he nailed it. Jennifer Connelly is reliably good as well. But this is really Billy's film. It's a romantic, wistful, elegy on love and loss. Must-see.
5 people found this helpful
Michelle RReviewed in the United States on December 5, 2017
5.0 out of 5 starsThis is a brilliantly written and well crafted piece of art
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This is a brilliantly written and well crafted piece of art. It's haunting. Years later and my heart still hurts for Fielding. I see Sarah in her cape when I hurry down the long hall at LAX. It has stayed with me for 15 years. Top five favorite movies f all times!
5 people found this helpful
Rollo TomassiReviewed in the United States on January 29, 2009
4.0 out of 5 starslove and idealism
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Perhaps Americans are simply ignorant of recent history, but still, I have a hard time believing that no one writing a review of this film has mentioned that Scott Spencer and Keith Gordon based the character of "Sarah" very closely on an actual person: Ronni Moffitt, the young political activist killed in the car-bomb assassination of Chilean Orlando Letelier in 1976. (agents of the Pinochet regime were convicted of the murders). Some might say the particulars of Moffitt's life shouldn't really have much to do with the success or failure of Waking the Dead as a fictional dramatic work, and in a narrow sense, that's true. But as the nature of this movie is the struggle of the higher duty of idealism vs. the earthly satisfaction of love, the real-life activism of Moffitt is relevant because of the way it "grounds" the idealism of Sarah. As much as conservative believers in the supremacy of the self might want to think it absurd, there really were and are people who sacrific to make things better. And the dramatic "path" of this movie is Fielding's slow back-and-forth realization, though the thickets of his lost love, of the ultimate importance of idealistic sacrific. This is why the movie's final scene (don't worry -- I won't give it away here), which no one else has mentioned, is so crucially important.
On the filmmaking details I have little to add. Crudup and Connelly, superb in so many other films, are superb here. Gordon's flashback-and-forward technique occasionally seems artsy but functions well enough in conveying the story. Challenging and moving.
18 people found this helpful
J. P. StermanReviewed in the United States on August 14, 2002
5.0 out of 5 starsAbsolutely mesmerizing...Real life, at last!
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Very few movies remain in your mind long, long after the curtain falls. Waking the Dead shall be considered a masterpiece of historic, as well as behavioral standpoint. From mid 60's to late 70's, the World has changed in a way we - the baby boomers, cannot forget, yet we find an intense difficulty to forward those values to today's generations. As I was a grown man at the time, the film touches me particularly through the process of bringing back the political process in the Americas by then.
Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba and the US were in turmoil: in politics, in the Arts, everywhere. However, we still remained deeply marked by a certain blend of idealism, naiveness and a remarkable determination to correctness in every aspect of Life. Those values seem to have vanished in present times!
This said, it becomes easier to understand the script behind the scenes and the disturbances in Fielding's mind. Crudup's interpretation should have earned him the Oscar, but not alone.
Jennifer Connelly's Sarah was so real that has trascended her natural and amazing beauty to produce a couple in love which rarely exists today.
Their love scenes approached moments of ECTASY very few actor/actresses have the power to produce so realisticaly. Jennifer's path to her deserved Oscar with A Beatiful Mind was clearly set thereat.
One must have lived those experiences to understand that everything in the movie looks like watching tapes - of real life - long buried in his/her mind.
Thank you Gordon, for this movie!
Thank you Crudup, for your remarkable talent and for reminding us of cruel times and the victory of love over them;
Thank you, Jennifer, for making us forget your amazing beauty and concentrate on your mesmerizing Sarah.
An absolute marterpiece!
10 people found this helpful
R.L. HollyReviewed in the United States on February 4, 2005
5.0 out of 5 starsSuperb performances, direction in this haunting love story
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Keith Gordon has again bowled me over with a magnificent piece of filmmaking. "Waking the Dead" shares many of the same elements as his "A Midnight Clear" (still in my view the best WWII drama of modern times) -- a skillful adaptation of a powerful novel, intense performances from the entire cast, and careful attention to the rhythm and pacing of his story. And two other things that are especially rare in today's mainstream movies: the deliberate ambiguity of the ending and nuanced characters that are neither black nor white but multiple shades of grey. Hollywood must hate this, and it must baffle many moviegoers. The general public is force-fed so many lifeless, undemanding, predictable movies with cardboard characters that they probably didn't reward this gem at the box office (Gordon's commentary track implies that this movie was a semi-flop, commercially, which is tragic -- and probably makes it only harder for him to continue to shoot quality films). One hopes "Waking the Dead" will find its audience on home video, much as the well-respected "A Midnight Clear" (which I saw several times in the theatre) seems to have.

Another reviewer has pointed out the double-meaning behind the title -- the "dead" here refers to both Sarah, believed to be physically dead, and Fielding, who has found his soul wasting away since losing her. Can Fielding bring himself as well as Sarah back to life? The story is also tellingly noncommittal as to Sarah's actual status. By the end of the film, we still don't know if Sarah is secretly alive, a ghost from the other side, or simply a product of Fielding's mental breakdown. Everything in the script leaves the question wide open for interpretation, and the effect is both chilling and intensely moving. The emotional wave of the story builds to a final confrontation between the principal characters that is truly heart-rending.

I think this is one of those movies best served by a review that does not give away too many surprises or attempt to detail too much of the plotline. Suffice to say that if you appreciate a human-scale drama that operates on several levels of meaning, you will find yourself drawn in by this one and riveted by the performances of Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly. It's a film that only gets richer and more rewarding with every viewing. Looking for a love story/ghost story for grown-ups? "Waking the Dead" is a sure-fire winner.

Some parting notes:

Most directors today hit you over the head with the soundtrack music and then lazily try to let the songs carry the picture. While Gordon is not totally above this contemporary shorthand, he has enough good taste and filmmaking savvy not to let this technique dominate these scenes. And his musical selections are spot-on.

Although Connelly and Crudup are THE key players, the entire cast is outstanding, and deserves a bow.

The DVD extras are generous and revealing. Unlike the deleted scenes from Gordon's "A Midnight Clear," which did seem disposable, I felt all these cut scenes SHOULD have been restored for a "Waking the Dead" Extended Cut. It's sad that they can't be part of the regular narrative; they add a wealth of character development and detail that would have made the theatrical version even richer. Ed Harris, in particular, is deservedly singled out by Gordon's commentary and reviewers here for his exceptional portrayal of a disgraced congressman.

I read the book AFTER I saw the film, being inspired to learn more about this story's genesis. While very fine, I have to say that I still prefer the movie and its more immediate impact. But that's par for the course -- I tend to always prefer the medium in which I was first exposed to something, be it print form or cinematic. I would recommend the novel to anyone who likes the picture. But I note with some bemusement that Fielding seems a much less likable fellow in the book.
32 people found this helpful
PR GUYReviewed in the United States on February 25, 2002
5.0 out of 5 starsEven men can cry....
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I ordered this DVD today...less than 12 hours after I saw it on cable early this morning. If you have ever been in love with that "one" you feel is your soulmate...if you have ever looked into the eyes of your woman and said (out loud or inside) "You are the love of my life!"...this is the romantic film for you. Yes...I am a male...a MAN who found his soulmate...and to this day...though she is not always here for me when I need her most...will never be the same without her...my heart pounded as I watched this film. There were moments when I felt I should turn it off, because the pain of the past was so explicitely outlined in many scenes. Jenniffer Connelly portrayed the soulmate in my life, and her performance is of Academy consideration. Where was this film hiding out? I stumbled across it while flipping channels. BOTTOM LINE: If you've ever been deeply in love...and till this day, have never found another...this is the flick for you. Yes...men cry. If you don't, you've never found the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE!
8 people found this helpful
L. K. MITSAKOSReviewed in the United States on October 13, 2000
4.0 out of 5 starsWork of Art
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So rarely do I see a film that I consider "art," but I believe that Keith Gordon has painted a near-masterpiece of the vibrant "hues" of two decades in our country's history. On the surface it is a love story, but as you begin to scrape away the layers, much more is revealed.

"Waking the Dead," in its non-linear structure, opens in 1974, as Fielding (the always brilliant Billy Crudup) is hearing news that his girlfriend Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) has been killed in a car bombing. We are then taken to 1982 when Fielding is being chosen to run for a seat in Congress. As he comes closer to reaching his life-long goals, Fielding begins to be haunted by the past. He believes that he is seeing and hearing Sarah. Did she really die? The film continues to flash back and forth between the two eras, in order to inform us of the impact the past has on the present.

Sarah is an allegory: whether she is really alive is irrelevant. She represents Fielding's lost passion and idealism. He needs to feel these again if he is truly to fulfill his "destiny."

Director Keith Gordon colors each era in appropriate thematic tones. The 70s (passion, nurturing) are drenched in rich, sun-kissed hues and the settings are warmly accessorized: bookshelves and kitchen cabinets overflow; colorful rugs and tapestries abound. The 80s (greed, cynicism) are cold and blue. The floors are bare; the kitchen has only rice cakes. Many scenes are shot in painterly composition. The cinematography is breathtaking.

And the acting...well, it is superb. Billy Crudup so inhabits this character that he takes you with him on his journey to madness and back again. I know of no other young actor who could so capably convey an emotional breakdown without descending into schlock. Jennifer Connelly, before her Oscar-winning role, is most convincing as the girl who would haunt you forever. There are some wonderfully realistic exchanges between the two, particularly one that is a three-minute, unedited scene of an argument.

The DVD is a worthy investment. The colors are more vibrant and the letterbox format allows you to take in every detail. And the director's commentary and deleted scenes are well worth the $15. You will learn that much of the acting was improvisational - which makes it all the more amazing - and you will learn how scenes are lit, rehearsed, etc.

There are certainly a few flaws in the film - the dialog is a bit clunky at times ("ambition is the ice on the lake of emotion" ???) -- but this is a brilliantly directed, beautifully photographed and well-acted film.
12 people found this helpful
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