The Dead Zone, along with The Shining and Salem's Lot (1979) is probably one of the best cinematic adaptions of a Stephen King novel. The Dead Zone centers around young schoolteacher John Smith (the awesome Christopher Walken) who leads a pretty normal life in a small town in Maine. John is a nice young man with a classroom full of students who like him, a pretty girlfriend he wants to marry and a good relationship with his mom and dad. But late one night, a horrific car accident takes all of that away from him...and replaces it with the gift - or is it the curse? - of precognition. John awakens from a five year coma to find his girlfriend married to another man, his job long gone and his parents much more feeble and shaken. But the one thing he does have - and isn't sure he wants - is a powerful ability to see both into the past and the future. Everyone he touches is an open book - the nurse whose house is burning down, the doctor whose mother escaped Nazi occupied Poland, the reporter whose sister killed herself...and a brutal serial killer who is raping and strangling young women. But the worst is yet to come. John meets an eager and ruthless politician (Martin Sheen) who is determined to get into the White House and declare nuclear war in the name of God. John finally decides to make use of his harrowing visions and sets out to change the future, even if it means he will not live to see it for himself.
This is an emotional, sorrowful tale of loss, grief and sacrifice. John is no superhero, no butt-kicking killing machine out to stomp the bad guys. He's a sad, lonely man with a limp and a terrible case of bad luck. The pain of John Smith haunts the expressive face of Christopher Walken throughout the entire film, and the rage he feels at the rotten hand that life has dealt him is understandable, believable and shattering. This is a man who has suffered every pain and loss that a man can suffer, yet is still determined to make the world a safe place for those he loves, even if it means losing them forever.
John is indeed one of screendom's saddest heroes - accessible, believable and heartbreaking. Christopher Walken is thoroughly convincing in his performance here: very likable and, at the same time, frighteningly intense. The cold, eternal winter in which the film takes place just reinforces the sense of loneliness and alienation. The violence is brief, but shocking, and the images are so powerful that they remain with you long after the film ends. Martin Sheen is also incredibly good as the dangerously psycho politician, and Brooke Adams is the dark ghost of regret as John's true love, Sarah.
This is a powerful, unforgettable film, whether you consider it a mystery, a horror-thriller or a tragic love story. Don't miss it, if you can help it. 10 huge stars!