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#18 - Blow Out
Brian de Palma, 1981

A jaded sound engineer (John Travolta) witnesses a car crash while recording noises one night and, upon realising it was staged, becomes embroiled in a political conspiracy along with the crash's sole survivor (Nancy Allen).

It'd be easy to write off Blow Out as a really lurid '80s rehash of The Conversation, but it more than holds its own. The sound design is naturally very good and the scenes involving Travolta's character doing his soundman job are interesting enough even without their direct contribution to the plot. The rest of the filmmaking is solid, with crisp photography emphasising a mix of neon and darkness while the editing of both sound and vision is strong. The plot itself is a fairly suspenseful affair for the most part, though it does seem to drag in parts. While Travolta's character has considerable depth with a traumatic past underneath his cool, cynical exterior, he's kind of cancelled out by Allen's naive airhead, though that's more a problem with the writing than with Allen's acting ability. John Lithgow's role as an especially sadistic enforcer manages to be sufficiently disturbing as well.

Blow Out is a solid little thriller that has enough interesting twists and turns to keep things turning and manages to compensate for some weak characterisation with all sorts of visual and, perhaps more importantly, audial flair. It may not be an all-time great, but it's definitely one of the better entries in de Palma's filmography.