Film, Go To

GO TO: Point Break (1991) dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Monday 2/20 @ Coolidge


Kathryn’s Bigelow’s Point Break is my go-to answer anytime I am asked what my all-time favorite movie is. It’s fantastic for a first-time viewing and an unlimitedly fun rewatch – it’s hilariously quotable, intense, and thrilling, fueled with the purest adrenaline possible. The true merit of Point Break goes beyond its cultural impact and cemented role as one of the greatest action movies of all time; the film’s unique premise and characterization, paired with witty dialogue and Bigelow’s sharp direction, prove Point Break to be an absolute triumph of action cinema. 

Awash in saltwater and hot California sand, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) supplements his carefree surfer lifestyle with efficient bank robbery. He and his gang call themselves the “Dead Presidents,” trading their wetsuits for business wear and leaving behind sand and surfing wax in banks, running out with bags of cash. Following their tracks is newbie FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), infiltrating their surfing community through waitress and surfer Tyler Endicott (Lori Petty). The film is filled with thrilling chase sequences, witty humor, stunning surfing moments, and fun chemistry/sexual tension between Bodhi and Johnny. 

The dialogue is constantly quotable, from Reeves’s snarky response to his superior reprimanding (“Caught my first tube today, sir”) to Angelo Pappas hungrily ordering multiple meatball subs (“Utah, get me two!”). Point Break is consistently funny, an absolute crowd-pleaser with laughable moments in nearly every scene. The notes of homoeroticism and slight queer subtext make this an incredible film to rewatch, because “You want me so bad it’s like acid in your mouth” is not a regular, platonic thing to say.  

Point Break is iconic for many reasons, and it has sincere merit beyond just its humor and cultural impact (though those are both pretty phenomenal). In particular, the diametric opposition between the work of Reeves/the FBI and Swayze/the surfers is a keen depiction of capitalism and hustle culture. Bodhi and his friends see robbery as their only means to live a life of freedom from capitalism, while Johnny sees his nobility in pursuit of success in the FBI. He latches onto that above all else, despite every wave ridden, every plane jumped out of. 

The iconic ending is a bittersweet reconciliation for Reeves’ and Swayze’s characters, but a somber meditation on American careerism and capitalism as a whole. Despite the bloodshed caused, Johnny grants Bodhi his wish to surf in the “50-year storm” he has always dreamed of. As the helicopters circle, prepared to arrest him, Johnny sets him free, allowing him to lose himself in the waves rather than give in to the system. As he sets off, fellow law enforcement officers say they’ll get him upon his return. Utah famously replies “He’s not coming back.” You can’t outsurf your past or swim out of the restrictions of capitalism, but Bodhi dies trying. 

Point Break
dir. Kathryn Bigelow
122 min.

Screening on 35mm Monday, 2/20, 7:00 @ Coolidge Corner Theatre
Part of the ongoing series: Big Screen Classics

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