Tag Archives: Groundhog Day

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #9 – TIME TRAVEL FILMS

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #9 – TIME TRAVEL FILMS

My ongoing series writing about cinema stuff I love, has gone from eulogizing actors to directors and now to genres; oh, how progressive am I?  Seriously though, in this piece I choose FIVE time-travel films which are just brilliant examples of the (sub)genre.

I love time-travel films and the main reasons are:

  • They offer fantastic and paradoxical narratives and “what if” scenarios.
  • They really get your brain working overtime.
  • The concepts fit all manner of different genres from action to comedies and thrillers and even the Western.
  • The philosophical concepts at play often examine the nature of existence; especially where one tries to make sense of life or find meaning where there probably is none.

As evidence I present FIVE such time-travel films which meet all of the criteria and are representative of most genres. Please note I have concentrated solely on time-travel films released in the cinema so Doctor Who remains parked up for this particular piece.

**HERE BE MASSIVE SPOILERS**

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

This is probably the most perfect Hollywood movie. It’s a high-concept-time-travelling-Oedipal-narrative-joy-fest which combines action, comedy, romance, sci-fi, and nostalgia genres while backed by a past and present pop music extravaganza!  A young teenage innocent called Marty McFly is thrown back to the 1950s. In the 50s he unwittingly begins to undo his own future by accidentally beginning a romance with his own mother. Allied to that he must help his father (Crispin Glover) overcome his social weakness plus battles with horrible bully Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Following the basic temporal rule that one’s actions in the past will affect your future the tremendous script is jam-packed with so many wonderful gags, twists and chases; while the race-against-time narrative is a thrill-a-second. The rich iconography – notably the mad scientist’s DeLorean “time machine” – plus cracking performances from Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, render this one of the most exhilarating time-travel films ever.

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993)

Bill Murray is obviously praised as a wonderfully funny man but he’s also a deviously good film actor. At times he doesn’t actually seem to be doing much but his mind is always working as he gives a sly look or a sarcastic smile or a silent sigh from his deadpan, hangdog face. In Groundhog Day he runs the gamut of ALL emotions from anger to desperation to insanity to bliss to apathy to suicide to pride and finally to LOVE!  This is a wonderful film with a tremendous “what if” premise which offers the idea we can only move on in life if we’re prepared not only to accept change but also throw off cynicism and find romance. The exceptional script mines the Sisyphean narrative for so many brilliant sequences as Murray relives the same day over and over again. At the beginning this temporal immortality offers an array of gifts to his jaded weatherman Phil Connors; however, by the end his life becomes a dreaded nightmare and repetitive hell. Ultimately, time-travel has never been so funny, tragic and romantic!

PREDESTINATION (2014)

I think most time-travel films are paradoxical by nature and holes can always be found in the logic but as a time-travel/thriller genre film Predestination worked really well while providing an intriguing gender-political angle too. The nature of the loner and finding love for others and oneself was also an interesting theme plus the inevitability of fate was there in the subtext too. There’s been a lot of big budget dross at the cinema recently but for the running time this gem offers far more than many other star-driven, big-budget movies. Even though I enjoy seeing stuff blown up on screen I do love a brain-twister too and this film presents one hell of a challenging narrative. Starring Ethan Hawke and with a breakout performance from brilliant Sarah Snook this film from German/Australian directors has intelligence, thrills, heart and several mighty plot twists which bear up under successive viewings.

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

This is one of my favourite films ever.  It propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron to mega-stardom in their respective fields and has often been parodied and imitated but rarely bettered. While story is simple: a killing machine has been sent back from the future to destroy Sarah Connor – the soon-to-be mother of uber-rebel leader John Connor; the journey is an absolute humdinger. Cameron’s lean, mean and muscular action screenplay combines brains, brawn, cracking one-liners and explosive set-pieces. Moreover, Linda Hamilton excels as the endangered young woman who turns from a flaky waitress to formidable matriarch over the course of the film. The sequel was brilliant too but the original will remain, despite being made for just $6.4 million dollars, the epitome of a tech-noir-futuristic-time-travel-action classic.

TIME CRIMES (2007)

This fascinating Spanish thriller has a narrative like a Russian doll as it is structured on an enigma within a conundrum within a paradox.  It concerns an ordinary Spanish bloke, who having seen some weird behaviour going on in the woods near his house, ends up looping and pursuing multiple versions of himself throughout one very bizarre day. Similar to Triangle (2009) – an underrated time-paradox gem directed by Brit filmmaker Christopher Smith – the enjoyment derives from immersing yourself in the weird and unexplained reasons why Hector (Karra Elejalde) has begun a psycho-sexual, violent loop of death involving a number of temporal leaps. This is all paradoxical plot and wicked thrills and while there is little in the way of characterisation the filmmaker Nacho Vigolondo has created the closest equivalent to a movie version of an Escher painting.

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) FILM REVIEW

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EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) – FILM REVIEW

**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**

The pitch:  Groundhog Day with guns!    The review:  it’s bloody brilliant.

While it may have lifted it’s premise from Harold Ramis’ classic Sisyphian comedy, Edge of Tomorrow, is a sterling example of high-concept futuristic action which twists and turns and repeats and explodes in a breathlessly paced Alien v Human death-match.  Also, Doug Liman is a fine genre director and handles the action, twisting plot and characterisation with an assured vision and touch. While perennial scene-stealer Emily Blunt shifts gear again from supporting-kooky-girlfriend-roles-to-hard-assed-action-hero with lusty aplomb; more than proving herself next to action veteran Tom Cruise.

EDGEOFTOMORROW

Based on a Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, this is black-belt genre filmmaking and I more than got my money’s worth with Tom Cruise — after the kind-of-okay-but-ultimately-confusing-Oblivion (2013) — on excellent form. In fact, he plays against type at the start of the film as non-combative and cowardly PR expert William Cage who is thrown into battle against the monstrous Mimics from outer space.
He is killed very quickly during first combat and then finds himself back where he started living the same day over and over again.

edge-of-tomorrow-movie-trailer

The story evolves as Blunt’ Rita Vrataski and Cage join forces to destroy the Aliens.  Usually Cruise movies have Tom as a hard bastard from the start brilliant at everything including fighting, jumping, killing, driving etc. The joy with this film is watching Cruise begin as an army novice and gain these skills throughout the film.  Blunt in fact is in the Cruise role here being the kind of confident all-out action hero who we have come to expect Hollywood’s Dorian Gray to play in his sleep. But Blunt excels in a physically crunching Alien-killing role emanating a toughness allied with insouciant sexuality and sarcasm.  Her partnership with Cruise is also a treat as the two physically and verbally spar and flirt with an always inventive and witty screenplay.

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Every person involved in the creation of Edge of Tomorrow from the original writer, the scriptwriters, costume designers, special effects team, cast, composer, post-production team and so on and so forth deserve the plaudits for creating a blockbuster that has heart, humour and a brain.  Okay, Groundhog Day did it first but if you’re going to rip off a classic then do it with class and Edge of Tomorrow certainly does that.