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Posts Tagged ‘In Time’

Catching up on an old episode of The Matineecast got me thinking about movies set in dystopian futures. Ryan referred to dystopias that are not that far in the future, and via the movie Pleasantville (1998) he and his guest Sasha James Talked about how a nostalgic view of America in the 1950’s could be a dystopia for people from the present day. My first thought was that we could now be living in what would be the dystopian future that people in the 50’s feared. With dwindling natural recourses, and rising costs, losses of civil liberties and an over reliance on technology coupled with the threat of war and terrorism, we are probably closer to dystopia than utopia. With this in mind I have avoided movies set in an unrecognisable world to concentrate on dystopias that are not that different to the real world.

Movies like Gattaca (1997), V for Vendetta (2005) and In Time (2011) exist in a society that has adopted practices that oppress the masses and it is through rebellion that people are able to find a better life. There are other films like1984 (1984), Brazil (1985) and Code 46 (2003) that revel in their desperation and futility by pulling rug from under the hero, and the audience with it. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and Children of Men (2006) find a happy balance where the despair is tempered by a glimmer of hope. The brilliance of Fahrenheit 451 the way we see a character comes to distrust what he has been taught to believe in and chooses to fight the system from within. We see a similar idea explored in the interesting if a little overrated Equilibrium (2002), set in a society where emotions are outlawed it also explores what it is to be human. Both these ideas are explored in the underrated and misunderstood RoboCop (1987). In there own way the characters in Rollerball (1975) and Death Race 2000 (1975). This is very different from District 13 (2004) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) whose protagonists are and remain outsiders. An interesting case is The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) whose main protagonists desire is only to escape the system but her desires bring her into the sphere of those who are trying to change things.

When you mention Mad Max many people think of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in some ways the best film in the trilogy, but the original low budget Mad Max is actually equally as good in its own way. Set in a near future world were society is crumbling and law & order has begun to break down people will do what it takes to keep moving to stay on the road. It was relevant in its day but it has found new relevance in recent years. If we think about the glue that holds society together, it is not fear of prosecution, but a moral belief of right and wrong, if you take that bond away the world as we know it will crumble. We see the early days of this in Mad Max, and the subtlety with which this idea is displayed within a violent revenge thriller is why it is possibly the best dystopian movie. This breakdown of society is in the background of neo-noir Trouble in Mind (1985) and retro-future comic book inspired Streets of Fire (1984) but lacks the despair of Mad Max. The other movie that perfectly depicts society at a tipping point is Strange Days (1995). Made in the mid 90’s with LA’s troubles fresh in the memory and set just five years in the future, now more than a decade in the past, some would argue the world is a worse place now than what was depicted. Given the reality TV obsession of the last dozen years and current distrust of media and governments, The Running Man (1987) now seems strangely prophetic. Battle Royale covers some of the same ground but is all the more shocking in the way it casts children against society.

It is human nature to try and change and shape society, but some movies have taken this to an extreme. By travelling back in time from a dystopian future to change the present and reshape the future, their present. This is handled in different ways in different movies, the hero of Twelve Monkeys (1995) is haunted by memories of his own death and with it his failure to save the future. Millennium (1989) takes a different point of view as the characters from the future battle to hide the existence in the present through fear that it will change and potentially destroy the future with the effects of the paradox of time travel. While Millennium is afraid of the effects of paradox, The Terminator (1984) exists within a paradox. It is only within an effort to kill the hero who can save the world that he is conceived. The one thing all these movies have in common is the way they only give us glimpses of the dystopian future, a future created in the present.

One thing that is clear, there are as many differences as there are similarities within the genre, but the movies that are the best and that age the best are the ones that have a deeper relevance. This can be an overt plot, a subtle subtext or just a theme that anchors the story in reality.

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2011 Films

All the films I saw at the cinema in 2011 ranked in order of preference:
  1. Hugo
  2. Drive
  3. The Guard
  4. Black Swan
  5. Senna
  6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  7. True Grit
  8. We Need to Talk About Kevin
  9. Midnight In Paris
  10. The Skin I live in
  11. The King’s Speech
  12. Moneyball
  13. Stake Land
  14. Kill List
  15. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  16. Another Earth
  17. Melancholia
  18. Warrior
  19. 127 Hours
  20. The Way
  21. Julia’s Eyes
  22. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
  23. Troll Hunter
  24. 50/50
  25. Source Code
  26. Submarine
  27. Super 8
  28. 13 Assassins
  29. A Lonely Place To Die
  30. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
  31. The Adjustment Bureau
  32. X-Men: First Class
  33. Thor
  34. Captain America: The First Avenger
  35. Limitless
  36. My Week With Marilyn
  37. The Inbetweeners Movie
  38. Take Shelter
  39. The Rum Diary
  40. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  41. The Ides Of March
  42. Real Steel
  43. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  44. Fair Game
  45. Never Let Me Go
  46. Blue Valentine
  47. Tree Of Life
  48. The Lincoln Lawyer
  49. The Help
  50. In Time
  51. The Awakening
  52. Sucker Punch
  53. Fast Five
  54. Hanna
  55. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
  56. Wuthering Heights
  57. Contagion
  58. The Fighter
  59. Paul
  60. Animal Kingdom
  61. NEDS
  62. Rabbit Hole
  63. One Day
  64. John Carpenter’s The Ward
  65. Drive Angry
  66. The Beaver
  67. Beginners
  68. Bridesmaids
  69. Red State
  70. Cowboys and Aliens
  71. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  72. The Conspirator
  73. The Art of Getting By
  74. I am Number Four
  75. Fright Night
  76. Henry’s Crime
  77. Blitz
  78. Priest
  79. Red Riding Hood
  80. Oranges and Sunshine
  81. Faster
  82. 1920 The Battle of Warsaw
  83. Win Win
  84. Colombiana
  85. Water for Elephants
  86. Immortals
  87. Battle: Los Angeles
  88. 30 Minutes or Less
  89. Hereafter
  90. Biutiful
  91. The Mechanic
  92. The Thing
  93. The Three Musketeers
  94. Anonymous
  95. Tomorrow, When The War Began
  96. The Debt
  97. Green Lantern
  98. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
  99. Footlose
  100. Justice
  101. Attack the Block
  102. Apollo 18
  103. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  104. Unkown
  105. Scream 4
  106. The Silent House
  107. The Eagle
  108. The Resident
  109. Season of the Witch
  110. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  111. The Hangover: Part II
  112. Sanctum

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A dozen movies seen at the cinema this month, but which is the movie of the month?

Contagion: a multi stranded story based around the spread of an unknown and deadly virus. The ensemble cast is fantastic and the writing and direction are sublime resulting in a perfectly paced and watchable movie.

In Time: Taking the idea of “time is money”, this is a high concept Sci-Fi movie, it has its problems but it also has some great ideas and an attractive and likeable young cast.

The Help: Given the hefty subject matter of race relations in Americas at the time of the civil rights movement it is a surprisingly lightweight movie. The story is highly manipulative and contrived, however none of these things really matter as the movie is highly watchable and entertaining thanks to fantastic performances from the largely female cast.

The Awakening: an old-fashioned ghost story, if you know my thoughts on horror, you will know that “old-fashioned” is a compliment not an insult. There are a few twists and turns in the plot but nothing spectacular, the real draw is Rebecca Hall who caries the movie virtually on her own proving her star credentials.

Wuthering Heights: a dark and brooding movie that reminds us that Emily Brontë’s story is far bleaker and less romantic than popular opinion would have you believe. The photography is stunning and the acting outstanding.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1: Depending on your point of view, splitting the final twilight movie in two is either the only way to do justice to the seven hundred and something pages of the source novel or a cynical attempt to squeeze as much money as possible out of the “Twihards”. Given the way the movie drags I would suggest the latter is true.

Immortals: a silly action movie that comes somewhere between Clash of the Titans and 300. Surprising entertains and with great visuals. It is a perfect example of a disposable popcorn movie, isn’t a great and I’m not rushing to see it again but enjoyed it while I was watching it.

The Rum Diary: A Johnny Depp movie based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel and directed by Bruce Robinson; you can’t help compare it to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Withnail & I. sadly it isn’t as good as either but Depp is as brilliant as ever and I could watch Amber Heard all day long!

Justice: If you have seen the trailer for the latest movie of the Nicolas Cage conveyor belt you have seen the movie, that’s all there is! Predicable and lightweight but not actually a bad film. Guy Pearce makes a great villain.

Moneyball: with a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin you expect a compelling story and snappy dialogue, I am happy to report both are present and are helped by Brad Pitt’s second great performance of the year. Reminiscent in part to The Social Network (also written by Sorkin) and that has to be a good thing.

Take Shelter: As a regular family man starts having apocalyptic visions he prepares for the impending doom and questions his own sanity in equal measure. A haunting movie that will stay with you long after it ends, elevated by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

My Week With Marilyn: The true story of 23-year-old Colin Clark’s experience on the set of The Prince And The Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (who also directed the movie). Directed with a light touch reminiscent of the best of Monroe movies but the best thing about it is the fantastic acting, Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Olivier, Michelle Williams is even better as Monroe.

I was still thinking about the film I would name the movie of the month as I was putting this together, eight of the twelve movies were genuine contenders, but the movie of the month is:

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Please not this is not a review and does contain plot spoilers.

Set in a slick stylised alternate reality/near future with a retro-future look where people are genetically engineered. Andrew Niccol’s In Time sounds a lot like the directors 1999 modern classic Gattaca. A line in the review in Empire “has none of Gattaca’s subtlety” got me thinking about how it will age. The reason, now regarded as a modern classic Gattaca was less revered on its release, a look back at the same magazine reveals a less than positive review with two out of five stars (one less than In Time) and a verdict including the line “Gattaca is far easier to look at than actually watch”. In Time is also well photographed and beautifully styled with a similar look albeit on a vaster (read more expensive) canvas.

For those not familiar, In Time is set in a world where thanks to the aforementioned genetic engineering everyone stops aging at 25, at this time a clock on their arm starts ticking down until they die at 26 unless they can earn more time. Replacing money, time is also a currency and the system is designed to keep the rich, rich and virtually immortal and the poor, poor and destined to die young.

Despite the fact films tend to spend years in preproduction In Time feels particularly relevant. The high concept is a perfect analogy for the mess the world economy has become, this is where the movie could date. However beyond this idea there is also a strong existential subtext that is kept surprisingly close the surface. Expressed by Amanda Seyfried’s character Sylvia Weis, given the opportunity to live indefinitely the value of life is raised to a level that prevents people from truly living. The flipside to this is the underclass who spend their lives a day from potential death and therefore forced to live each day like their last.

The catalyst that makes the story possible is Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who travels across the “time zones” that separate the rich from the poor. Wills journey is made possible by a gift of time from a suicidal man who at over a hundred years old has lost his desire for life but more importantly it is motivated by the death of his mother who “times out” thanks to the increased cost of living. The two elements and their ultimate collision gives the movie and extra dimension that the similar themed Logan’s Run (1976) lacked.

So how will it age? I actually think quite well, with an attractive young cast giving strong performances in a film that has a good balance between lightweight Sci-Fi fun and deeper and deeper social comments the movie has more to offer than you would expect.

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