22 October 2012

A Day at the Movies

On a hot (not even summer yet) day off, there's nothing quite like going to your local shopping centre and having a double-movie day (using discount cards to full advantage!) with the Mrs.

Being members at our local RSL gets us movie tickets for $9.50 ($14.50 full price), and Star Cinema for $13 ($22 full price). After a quick breakfast, it was time for the first movie of the day.

Looper (MA)

"Time travel hasn't been invented yet. But 30 years from now, it will have been..."

So begins Looper, as much a gangster movie as it is a science fiction piece. The Loopers of the title are young gunmen in the film's present (the year 2044) who are sent bound and hooded victims from gangsters in the future. They kill the target, collect their payday (in the form of silver bars pre-strapped to the victim's back) and live large in a city that exists somewhere between Children Of Men and Blade Runner. Their contracts end when they receive a body with gold bars strapped on. Removing the hood will reveal they have just murdered their future selves, referred to as "closing the loop". They then live off their retirement money, rich beyond their dreams, but with the knowledge that their final fate will one day catch up with them, as they have been instrumental in their own death.

Of course, things will go wrong. One Looper recognises the tune being hummed by the victim that materialises at the killing spot, and pulls the hood off to look into his older self's eyes. The older man escapes, which is a big no-no. The young assassin is held captive and tortured by his co-workers, and some impressive CGI follows as everything they do results in scar tissue spontaneously appearing on the older version. The gangland characters talk a lot about keeping timelines intact, and not creating paradoxes. The resulting Fridge Horror: will they now have to keep this young assassin on life-support for 30 years so they can still send his older self back?

For some reason, the time travel is limited to one direction (backwards), has a fixed length (30 years in the past), and the traveller will always appear in the same spot, on a dusty roadside near a canefield in the countryside outside the city. Leaving questions about this aside, I'm left with a satisfying time-travel story that brings to mind 12 Monkeys (which also starred Bruce Willis), and raises the inevitable questions about changing the future, and how fixed our fates are. If you could go back in time and kill Hitler when he was a boy, would that be morally right? Will the future carry on as before, only this time with someone else as a (possibly worse) Fuehrer? These are the kind of questions Looper brings up.

The real action happens when our main protagonist, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is shocked by the arrival of his unhooded future self (Bruce Willis), who promptly tries to attack him and escape. He has his own agenda, which we of course discover more about later. The prosthetic makeup effects on Gordon-Levitt are impressive. Not only does he have a young-Bruce-Willis nose and chin thing going on, but he even has the little eye creases, and the slight squint in one eye (he's done his homework, watching lots of older Bruce Willis movies). There's no need for CGI makeovers like we saw with Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy. There are moments, even before Bruce even makes his screen appearance, when the resemblance is just creepy. And that's a good thing.

Overall, an interesting and intelligent science fiction film, and one of the best handlings of time travel in recent years. I give the marketing department special props for keeping a lot of stuff out of the trailers. Trailer: It's about criminals who use time travel to zap people back to a waiting hitman. Movie: Oh, and by the way, some people in the future are telekinetic. This restored my faith in trailers, which I now try to see on imdb as soon as they're released, so that in the event of spoilers I have time to forget details before the film actually comes out on the big screen.

**** out of 5.

Argo (M)

This was one of several "Special Advance Screenings" this weekend before it actually comes out to regular theatres next week. The special screenings were only in the Star Cinema - comfortable reclining seats (although I do prefer the adjustable recliners-with-footrests at the competitor's Gold Class), plenty of room in the theatre, and it's licensed, so I can have me a bucket-o-beers while enjoying a film.

The movie is a dramatisation of the "Canadian Caper", a joint US-Canadian mission to rescue 6 American diplomats hiding out in Tehran during the Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981, and smuggle them out of the country as a film crew for a fake Hollywood science fiction movie. I knew nothing about the history of the real events, so the tension and drama played out well - there were no "Well, I know the ship sinks at the end" feelings of Titanic.

Ben Affleck's third film as director is close in style to thrillers like All The President's Men. Camera moves and film grain give a nice 70s look to the movie. It even begins with the old Warner logo, which was the first sign to me that I would probably enjoy the ride, and then proceeds to give a condensed history of Iran via a mix of storyboards and historical photographs, leading into the Hollywood link in the plot.

Of course, as a Hollywood film, events have been "fictionalised" for dramatic purposes. One major change is that in real life, the six were hiding in two houses - of the Canadian ambassador, and of another Canadian diplomat. For filming economy, this film puts all six in the ambassador's house, but this also serves to heighten the suspense of whether they will be caught.

The movie focusses on Tony Mendez, the CIA exfil expert, and his attempts to build a credible backstory for his visit to Tehran. In doing so, the active role played by the Canadians in contacting the US, arranging Canadian passports, etc, gets little screen time. Hopefully there's an Extended Cut when this gets a Blu-Ray release (like Affleck's previous directorial effort, The Town) for people like me who want even more of the story.

I won't spoil any of the story. There's drama in the right places, thrills (more suspense than action), and quite a number of witty lines that got laugh-out-loud responses at the screening I attended.

**** out of 5. I will be adding both of these to my collection.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...