Tag Archives: time travel

My Favorite Scene: Edge of Tomorrow (2014) “We’ve Never Gotten This Far”

As Tom Cruise gets ready to sprint into theaters with Mission Impossible: Fallout, it’s worth pregaming with his last really great non-MI film: 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow.  Cruise certainly has his offputting personal qualities, but you can’t say the man doesn’t show up to a film set with unrivaled energy.  The best roles he’s had blend his affinity for absurd physicality and character work.  Cruise, unlike a lot of action stars, actually can act.  He may have stopped going for Oscar-type roles, but he’s better than his recently dreary The Mummy or the Jack Reacher duology.  Edge or Tomorrow (or Live. Die. Repeat depending on which title you prefer) provides Cruise with the best time travel gimmick since Groundhog Day and a character that plays against his type.

Cruise’s character is EoT isn’t a hero, he doesn’t want to fight, and he starts out as kind of a coward.  The “Cruisian Superhero” tropes that Tom usually leans on aren’t anywhere to be found in Doug Liman’s film.  Until his character begins his time loop, there isn’t much redeemable in this character.  Once he’s trapped, though, he has to go through to get out.  Going through, however, in this case, requires a lot of dying.  There are some interesting theories on how much time Cruise actually spends trapped in his loop during the film.  He dies (resetting his loop) 16 times on-camera in Edge of Tomorrow, but the implication is that’s just a fraction of his journey.  Estimates on the IMDB boards on his time looping duration range from 100 days to 1,000 days to 10 years.  As he spends more and more time buffing out the dings in his temporal prison, he becomes more and more redeemable and the time forge ends up pounding out one of Cruise’s best and most unlikely heroes by film’s end.Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow

My Favorite Scene: Back to the Future (1985) “The Clocktower”

This week I was having a discussion with a friend about whether directors are really storytellers at all or if they are helpless without a good script.  I don’t think you can have a good movie without a good script.  It’s the foundation of all great films.  I remain perpetually baffled that movies spend $20 million on a special effect but won’t drop a quarter of that on a script.  Some directors are just not great storytellers, but there are some who, when given something solid to work with (like Bob Gale’s great script for Back to the Future) can take those words and bring it to life in a way that exceeds anything printed on a page.  Robert Zemeckis is absolutely at the top of the list of these “storytelling directors”.

Back to the Future, over 30 years after its release, still holds up as one of the great action comedies of recent memory.  The film is full of iconic moments from the hoverboard chase, to Johnny B. Goode, to every time Christopher Lloyd bellows “GREAT SCOTT!”, but my favorite scene is the climactic clocktower set piece.  CineFix in an Art of the Scene piece from a few years ago does a wonderful job of breaking down the nuts and bolts of how one of the most iconic scenes of the 1980s came to life.  What’s probably most stunning is how much of the clocktower scene are practical effects.  In an age when CGI has taken a lot of the ingenuity out of F/X work, you don’t see this kind of brilliance anymore.  Back to the Future worked so well because it blended a great script, a great director, Michael J. Fox in his breakout role, and old-fashioned movie wizardry to tell a time-traveling tale that has, over the decades, become timeless.

My Favorite Scene: About Time (2013) “The Family Secret”

Every family has secrets.  Every family has traits that are passed down from fathers to sons.  Most families do not require a father-son chat on the nature of inherited time travel.  Tim’s (Domhnall Gleeson) is an exception.  On his 21st birthday, he inherits a gift that all the male members of his family have, his father (Bill Nighy) explains: he can, in fact, travel back in time.  It is one of my favorite father-son chats in film history because while it is about as something as bizarre as the time travel, it contains the awkwardness and general generational incredulity that is at the heart of most father-son bonds (or lack thereof).  About Time is a slightly science fictiony love story, but at its heart, it’s about family, the moments that begin and end them, and more than anything the bond between fathers and sons and how it changes and evolves as we age.  It’s a funny, touching, and seriously underrated film that if you haven’t seen-I couldn’t recommend more.

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in About Time

Movie Review: About Time (2013)

Bill Nighy, About Time, Domhnall Gleeson

When I turned 21, I’m fairly certain my father wished me a Happy Birthday.  It would be very unlike him to do otherwise, so I’m sure it’s so.  Truth be told, I don’t quite recall it and it’s not that I got slogged and woke up in a 7-11.  It was…ordinary.  My father certainly didn’t tell me that all the male members of my family, at the age of 21, could travel through time.

That talk between Bill Nighy and Domnhall Gleeson is what begins the dramedy that is About Time.  It’s not a super power.  “It’s not as if I can go back and kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy,” Nighy explains.  He’s mostly used it to read.  Everything.  Twice.  It comes in quite handy, traveling back a few minutes or a few months.  Undo a bad decision; forgo a gaffe.  Gleeson has to employ it quite a bit to get things right when his character meets the love of his life in Rachel McAdams (always good, usually horrible movie, so happy not the case).

Rachel McAdams, Domnhall Gleeson, About Time
If you’ve seen the marketing for the film, you’ll know it’s by Richard Curtis, who wrote and directed Love Actually, which crept into my favorite films list as it did many people who’ve discovered it after the fact.  The film is marketed as a romantic comedy and it’s not.  To label it as a simple romantic comedy is what studio marketing departments do because it’s far more difficult to sum up in a few shots that this film is about exactly what it says: time.  How we spend it, whom we spend it with, how it can be egregiously wasted, and-ultimately-how best to parse it out over the course of a lifetime.

Domnhall Gleeson (son of veteran actor Brendan Gleeson) is immensely likable and remarkably capable carrying the film on his back given that his only prior screen experience was playing Charlie Weasley in the last few Harry Potter movies.  He’s funny and earnest, extremely awkward and ultimately believable.  The movie chronicles his life, his relationship with his Mary (McAdams) and with his father (Nighy, funny and wonderful).  It’s really an ordinary life, but most of us have those.  We just seldom realize how precious moments are until faced with TIME.  If we did, we’d probably duck into a closet, squeeze our eyes tightly shut and concentrate on the time and place we’d like to revisit.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try it when I got home.
Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, About Time

It’s not as funny as Love Actually, but it is devastatingly likable.  I mean both of those descriptors quite literally.  These are characters you grow to like terribly over the course of the film and time’s course is ultimately not kind to any of us.  That’s what makes our journey through it so treacherously particular.  This was an unexpected gem.

Trailer Time: About Time (2013)

So, here it is.  I’m just putting it out there.  I love Love Actually.  Love it.  Don’t care; shut up; don’t care.  I think it’s one of the most weirdly hysterical heartfelt movies out there.  I qualify that because now I’m going to show you a trailer for a Rachel McAdams movie and I actually want you to watch it and not think I’ve been sipping peyote all morning.  This is the same creative team behind Love Actually and it’s about a father (played by Bill Nighy who slays me) trying to explain to his son how the men in their family, once they reach a certain age, can travel through time.  It has the potential to be hilarious; it also has the potential to be heartbreaking.  If it’s half the movie Love Actually is, I shall be there….after I see Thor because it comes out the same day: November 8th.
Rachel McAdams, About Time