My favourite movies that deal with… Time

Here’s a thing. I recently watched Midnight In Paris and noticed that time travel drove the story along at a gentle pace. Which got me thinking; filmmakers use time as a plot device like, a lot. And why not? It shapes our existence, it may as well shape our storytelling mediums too.

This made me wonder, which time-based movies are ones that have struck a chord with me over the years?

Obviously there’s loads not included in the list below, like Groundhog Day and Time Bandits. Because whilst they’re great films, I don’t really remember them well. So I’ve got to go with what’s shaped me and made me, well, me.

So here they mine. What are yours?

Back To The Future (1985)
The daddy of time travel films. With tracks by Huey Lewis, score by Alan Silvestri, leading pair in Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd and Bob Zemeckis at the helm, it was bottled movie magic.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Let’s not forget, before Keanu got serious he started his career with stuff like this. It’s such a quotable film and spawned a trilogy which wasn’t half bad either. Remember, be excellent to each other.

Looper (2012)
Bruce Willis, an older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Not likely. But they made it work in this underrated modern sci-fi directed by Rian Johnson. In Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and others it had a great supporting cast too.

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Time travel and comedy. The best combination, right? And whilst the sequel was below par, the original came with added John Cusack, so it was a bit of a treat. Sleeper hit too. One no one saw coming.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Funny choice for this list? In that there’s pretty much no time travel until the end. Well it’s such an odd and sweet film I feel it’s earned its place. Go see it. It’s also probably Aubrey Plaza’s best performance to date.

Source Code (2011)
You wake up on a train set to explode. You’re meant to save it. You fail and go back to the start. Duncan Jones’ execution of this story was masterful and had me gripped throughout. Strong Jake Gyllenhaal performance too.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Like Tom Cruise? Well he’s in this. Don’t like him? No problem, he gets killed over and over again. Bit like Source Code in a way. Our hero keeps reliving the same loop until he can figure a way not to die and save mankind from aliens at the same time.

Interstellar (2014)
Got your thinking caps on? Because this one gets heavy. Maybe in space no one can hear you scream but at the cinema many probably did. Because Chris Nolan’s sci-fi tale got rather ‘out there’ in the final third.

Flight Of The Navigator (1986)
I would have been roughly the same age as the lead character when it came out so had that connection. It was a fun buddy movie too, in that the ship had its own zany personality and learnt about humanity from the boy. So like Terminator, but sweeter.

Looper review: Bruce Willis and Blunderbuses!

Initially I had read various reviews before seeing Looper – a bad idea, but there you go. So I went to see this film with relatively high hopes for a high-concept time travel film, which is what you get. Except it isn’t, not exactly.

To explain, just before seeing it I was having dinner near the cinema and got talking to the waiter. I mentioned I was going to see a film, ‘Oh, what are you going to see?’ he asked. “Looper” I replied. ‘I’ve seen it’ he said, ‘it’s not what I expected’.

gordon-levitt bruce willisWith that I left the restaurant a little puzzled. It was not the first time someone had said something similar. So I made my way to the cinema a little apprehensive, but still open-minded and ready for a good film. I was hoping for time travel, big guns, assassins, explosions, double crossing, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis facing off against each other and ultimately teaming up to defeat a common enemy.

Now you do get a lot of these elements, but not in the way you might think. Remember this is from the same Director that gave us Brick, so I should have been prepared for something a little left-field, not your obvious tone and style. I think, like a lot of high-concept films, this will require a second viewing to fully appreciate it.

In terms of the film’s big draw, the marketing types would like you to focus on Willis (established actor) facing off against his younger self, Gordon-Levitt (up and coming actor). However I felt the Director was slightly playing a trick on the audience and this film was really about a character called the Rainmaker.

Let’s set the scene. Gordon-Levitt is a ‘looper’, an assassin who kills people sent back in time, as it’s somewhat hard to commit murder in the future. Easier to send bodies back and have loopers dispose of them. As this is highly illegal loopers have a short life span, in that their employers look to send them back to be killed by their younger selves when they’ve outlived their usefulness. This is called ‘closing your loop’.

Where it all begins..
Now the story kicks off when Bruce is sent back for his loop to be closed, but evades assassination as he’s got his own agenda. He plans to whack his future boss – the mysterious Rainmaker – who happens to be a child in Gordon-Levitt’s time.

looper farmHis younger self feels killing children who may or may not become future crime lords is a little excessive, so sets out to stop him and protect the kid. Now, for me, that’s what this film is about, however it takes a while to get there.

All the high-concept time travel stuff has to be set up first, Gordon-Levitt’s world, how he goes about his job, his older self and his motivation for coming back in time. As a result, I felt all the key stuff comes in the third act – with a slightly sagging middle in terms of pace, when Gordon-Levitt meets Emily Blunt’s character. No reflection on Ms Blunt, I think she’s great.

That said, the ‘sagging’ section is just slower in pace but does contain a lot of plot revelations and key scenes. To be honest, I’ve found writing this piece quite hard without giving too much away. Much like a scene in the film in a diner where Willis and Gordon-Levitt face off against each – reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat – and Willis remarks on how too much discussion of time travel will only end with them making straw diagrams and getting a headache.

Let’s just sum up. I did like this film and want to see it again – if only to get my head around it. I feel maybe Bruce’s character could have had more back-story, so we sympathise more with his reasons for coming back to the past. Perhaps Rian Johnson’s script could have been more brutal in early scenes to save time and move things along quicker.

All in all though, a really interesting film and concept and worth seeing. Just don’t expect your average high-octane, pump the action up to 10 and keep it there, type film. It’s more considered and ultimately better for it.

To finish, here’s some artwork by an illustrator from Uruguay I’d like to share. Until next time…