Dying of the Light (film)

Dying of the Light

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Schrader
Produced by Scott Clayton
Gary A. Hirsch
Todd Williams
Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Paul Schrader
Starring Nicolas Cage
Anton Yelchin
Irène Jacob
Music by Frederik Wiedmann
Cinematography Gabriel Kosuth
Edited by Tim Silano
Red Granite Pictures
Grindstone Entertainment Group
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • December 5, 2014 (2014-12-05)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5 million

Dying of the Light is a 2014 American psychological thriller film written and directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin and Irène Jacob about a government agent who must track down and kill a terrorist before he loses his full memory from a disease.[2] It was released theatrically and through VOD formats by Lionsgate on December 5, 2014.[3] The film received extremely negative reviews, with controversy surrounding the heavy tampering and reediting of the footage by the studio, who denied Schrader final-cut privilege and lead him and principal members of the cast to disown the released version and campaign against it.[4]


Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) is a highly-decorated veteran CIA agent and Intelligence Star recipient reduced to a desk job at Langley with his protege and close friend Milton "Milt" Schultz (Anton Yelchin). Twenty-two years ago during an op in Africa, Lake was captured by terrorist Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim) and tortured by having his head repeatedly bashed and having his ear mutilated. During the extraction and ensuing explosion, Banir went missing and was presumed dead, although Lake never bought it and has obsessively tried to find Banir ever since. As a result of the trauma he sustained under torture, Lake is now suffering from early stage frontal temporal dementia, and his boss considers him a liability to the agency.

In Bucharest, police tail a Kenyan national, Abdi, carrying a mysterious USB drive. A car chase ensues, and rather than giving himself up, the courier throws himself and the drive off a bridge. The Romanian Intelligence Service retrieve the drive and the body, but the data is corrupted, so it is subsequently sent to the CIA. Milt gets a hit on large quantities of an experimental drug treating thalassemia, information corroborated in the USB data. The drugs are for an anonymous Kenyan client, and are coming from a University of Bucharest clinic run by Professor Dr. Iulius Cornell. Since thalassemia is hereditary, Milt concludes that Banir is ordering shipments of the drug through a middleman, Dr. Wangari. He tells Lake, who asks his superiors to go after Banir. However, they still believe he's dead, and refuse. Later, Lake has a violent outburst during a search and resigns on the spot. During this time, in Kenya, Banir sends his man Aasim to Bucharest to find out why Abdi has not delivered the medicine.

Lake tells Milt about his mental deterioration, which becomes increasingly apparent as the film progresses. When Lake decides to go to Romania, Milt goes along. In Bucharest, the men meet Michelle Zubarain (Irène Jacob), a former journalist, possible agent, and Lake's one-time love, who has information about Cornell providing the drug Banir needs. The trio meet with the professor, compelling him to acknowledge his role and to admit that Banir is forcing him to travel to Kenya. As Lake, Milt, and Michelle leave the professor's office building, Aasim sees them. The next day, the three return to the professor's office in hopes of following whomever the professor meets. They watch until the professor comes outside to meet Aasim, but Aasim spots them and runs. While Lake takes the money, drugs, and passport from the professor in order to impersonate him in Kenya, Milt catches Aasim and slits his throat, effectively preventing him from contacting Banir.

Michelle finds a make-up specialist to help Lake transform into the professor, then Lake and Milt fly to Mombasa. The disguise works, and Lake is driven out of the city to Banir's hideout, and through a ruse and some small hand-to-hand combat, is finally alone with Banir. Lake reveals himself to the terrorist, but at that moment has an attack of dementia-fueled flashbacks, during which the disparity between the young terrorist who maimed Lake twenty-two years earlier and the now aging, fragile, and terminally-ill man is very clear. Without taking any further action, Lake abruptly leaves Banir. The next day, Lake and Milt are strolling through a Mombasan park full of people when a shot rings out and a young Kenyan passing Lake suddenly drops. Lake sees that Milt has been hit, too (not fatally), and returns fire to the gunmen, ultimately killing both and being shot twice himself. Understanding that Banir has sent them, he takes their vehicle, driving into the night back to Banir's hideout, where he engages in a short (and prone) knife fight with Banir before killing him. But as he returns to Mombasa, he is still losing blood, and the flashbacks and voices return. Lake appears to drive head-on into a truck. The closing moments of the film move (with a voice-over by Lake) to Arlington National Cemetery, to Langley, to Lake giving a speech (from early in the film), and to Milt giving Michelle a memento of Lake's that is important to her.



In January 2010, Nicolas Winding Refn was attached to direct Paul Schrader's script, with Harrison Ford to star as lead.[8] On February 15, 2010, Refn left the film project to direct Drive.[9] On June 5, 2013, it was announced that Paul Schrader would direct the film off his own script, with Refn joining on as an executive producer.[2] On July 30, 2013, Nicolas Cage joined the film in the lead role, replacing Ford.[5] On January 10, 2014, Anton Yelchin joined the film, along with Irène Jacob and Alexander Karim.[6] On March 6, Red Granite International joined as producers.[10] On August 19, it was announced that Lionsgate Home Entertainment had acquired the distribution rights to the film.[11]

On October 16, 2014, Schrader posted on his Facebook page: "We lost the battle. 'Dying of the Light,' a film I wrote and directed, was taken away from me, reedited, scored and mixed without my input."[12] On December 8, 2014, his cinematographer - Gabriel Kosuth - explained, in a guest column on Variety.com, that his color-significant cinematography had been digitally altered and that he "was denied the possibility to accomplish in post-production what is any cinematographer’s duty: 'assuring that what audiences will see on cinema and television screens faithfully reflects the “look” intended by the director' (according to the American Cinematographer Manual)".[13]


Filming was set to begin on January 27, 2014,[6] to be shot in Romania, including in Castel Film Studios, Bucharest, and wrapped after five weeks followed by post-production to be done in the US.[7] On March 5, 2014, Cage was spotted on the set during the filming of The Dying of the Light in Queensland, Australia.[14] The next day, March 6, it was announced that the shooting in Gold Coast, Queensland had wrapped and the rest of the film would be shot in Romania.[10]


Dying of the Light was panned by critics; it currently holds a 9% rating, based on 32 reviews, on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[15] On Metacritic, the film has a 31/100 rating based on 12 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[16]


  1. "DYING OF THE LIGHT (18)". British Board of Film Classification. December 11, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  2. 1 2 JAGERNAUTH, KEVIN (5 June 2013). "Paul Schrader To Direct 'The Dying Of The Light,' Nicolas Winding Refn May Produce". indiewire.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  3. http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=123848
  4. Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film ‘Dying Of The Light’ Oct 16, 2014 - IndieWire
  5. 1 2 Anderton, Ethan (30 July 2013). "Nicolas Cage to Lead Paul Schrader's Thriller 'The Dying of the Light'". firstshowing.net. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 JAGERNAUTH, KEVIN (10 January 2014). "Anton Yelchin Joins Paul Schrader's 'Dying Of The Light'". indiewire.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  7. 1 2 Blaga, Iulia (22 January 2014). "Paul Schrader to shoot The Dying of the Light in Romania". filmneweurope.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  8. Raup, Jordan (29 January 2010). "Harrison Ford To Star In Nicolas Winding Refn's 'The Dying Of The Light'". thefilmstage.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  9. "Director Refn quits Jekyll and The Dying of the Light". hollywood.com. 15 February 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  10. 1 2 Frater, Patrick (6 March 2014). "Red Granite boards Paul Schrader's 'Dying of the Light'". variety.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  11. Fleming Jr, Mike (August 19, 2014). "Paul Schrader's 'Dying Of The Light' Acquired By Lionsgate Home Entertainment". deadline.com. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  12. Kilday, Gregg (October 16, 2014). "Director Paul Schrader Says His New Nicolas Cage Movie "Was Taken Away From Me"". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  13. Kosuth, Gabriel (December 8, 2014). "Paul Schrader Cinematographer Asks: Who Killed The Color? (Guest Column)". variety.com. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  14. Gordon, Naomi (6 March 2014). "Nicolas Cage ages: Star goes grey for The Dying of the Light film role". digitalspy.co.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  15. "Dying of the Light". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  16. "Dying of the Light". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 11, 2014.

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