Arnold Kopelson is not a name that trips off the tongue of the average cinefile, let alone the regular moviegoer. In a career that spanned over 30 years, Kopelson was mostly attached to middlebrow fare such as Outbreak and Eraser.
However, he did cast out a thunderbolt on three separate occasions in his long career. In 1986 with Oliver Stone’s Platoon, in 1993 with the huge Harrison Ford hit, The Fugitive, and then once more two years later with David Fincher’s Se7en.
The drop from there to his next best work is fairly steep, although Falling Down with Michael Douglas and the nutty, over the top, Devil’s Advocate have their fans. You can’t see me right now, but I just raised my hand in favor of the latter.
Still, it will be Platoon, The Fugitive, and Se7en that Kopelson will be remembered for. While The Fugitive was high grade mainstream entertainment, Platoon and Se7en were something greater.
Both films probably made, if not saved, the careers of Stone and Fincher. Stone has been in filmmaker’s jail since the woeful horror film The Hand with Michael Caine in 1981. After The poor critical and commercial performance of Alien 3, Fincher was probably headed to the same hoosegow himself.
Platoon and Se7en changed not only the course of those two director’s historical arc, but that of movies as well.
After the jingoistic Rambo era, Platoon came forth and washed away all that macho war nonsense much the same as Nirvana destroyed hair metal with Smells Like Teen Spirit. The cliche “War is Hell” was never set in concrete the way it was with Stone’s Vietnam film. Gone were the days of going to war, blowing up stuff real good, and looking cool doing it.
As for Se7en, that film set the serial killer genre on its head. Even Jonathan Demme’s great Silence of the Lambs did not bring the level of doomed poetry that Fincher’s film did. The utter despair and darkness enveloped the film and those is the audience.
Arnold Kopelson may well be the reason that two maverick directors with singular visions were allowed to go on and create seminal works like JFK, Born on the 4th of July, and Zodiac and Gone Girl.
That looks pretty good on a resume.
Arnold Kopelson died on October 8, 2018. He was 83.