Thursday, 11 October 2012
This was one of those films where I was keen to see it as soon as possible, scared that I might end up having bits of it spoiled otherwise. After seeing it I'm not sure it's really the kind of film where knowing the final twist or resolution would spoil the whole thing, though I will try to keep my thoughts here as spoiler free as possible. I'd say it's a great all round movie and that the journey through the film seems just as important as the end.
I think I did benefit from knowing very little about it going in though, which kind of felt like the reverse of Dredd, where it's trailer was so on the nose about what was in the film. Here the trailer didn't really give much away other than its basic premise and left me with the impression that it would be set in a time not that different to ours. Instead, it's near future setting portraying a strange crumbling society with a mixture of modern and futuristic elements made it immediately engaging.
Right from the start I was impressed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's efforts at channelling Bruce Willis, in the rather measured way that he spoke and acted. Surprisingly I barely noticed the additional prosthetics and make up he had, which have been a stumbling block for others. Even knowing what Willis looked like in his youth, JGL's look still felt like a valid version of him so to speak. Willis too was on better form than I've seen in a long time, even if he gets a lot less screen time than I expected.
Another surprise to me was the film's sense of humour, when I was perhaps expecting something darker and more serious in tone. From the perfectly placed slapstick of someone being hit by an opening door to its almost fourth wall breaking jokey tone when dismissing the need to explain things. I initially thought that its method of sending a message to your future self was amusing but this gradually became quite horrific once you realised how far this was going to go.
This also set out the films own rules for time travel, with changes affecting your instantaneous situation and not taking into account how that would have affected your life up to that point. I think I've had enough arguments about the practicalities of time travel in my life, so while I might have quickly pondered if it's approach was possible, generally I was just happy they picked a method and stuck with it. The film kind of reinforces this point when JGL and Willis finally sit down for coffee, with his older self stating that debating the principles of time travel isn't really important.
I also loved how scenes which were revisited multiple times usually had a slight twist the second time around. Willis' escape from his former self, so familiar now from the trailers, had a great simplicity to it when shown as one take in real time. This also helped to keep things moving when repeated sections in time travel based films can sometimes make things drag.
Despite having some humour, the film does go to darker places as well, especially when it comes to the idea of killing off people who could become 'The Rainmaker' - the film's antagonist from Willis' point of view. Here you could say that there were some similarities to The Terminator but with the important distinction of our time traveller not being an unfeeling robot. The film makes it clear that Willis' actions have an impact on him and I wasn't sure if he is supposed to experience a change in his memories after killing someone, hinting that he is changing his life for the better and forcing him onwards in the attempt to achieve his goal.
When it came to the end, it may have seemed slightly predictable but I felt it was a strong finish and you could tell what the film was trying to say. While Willis initially accuses JGL of being selfish, by the end you can tell that Willis has become the more selfish of the two, blindly trying to restore his life with no care for the consequences. While his younger self could perhaps have resolved the situation differently (I'm trying to stop calling things that a character could have done plotholes), the important thing was that he was now prepared to make sacrifices for others, something Willis learnt much later in life. You could perhaps look at both of them as representing the two sides of the nature versus nurture argument, asking whether the Rainmaker was destined to exist or if his path could be changed.
I'm always unsure of whether to read other reviews before writing my own, in case they influence my point of view too much. For the most part I've avoided anything about this and I'm now quite looking forward to delving into others impressions to see what I didn't pick up on. Even things like its focus on mother and father figures wasn't something immediately obvious to me, which I think shows that it will have a lot of value in repeated viewings. But like Inception, it feels to me that understanding these extra themes isn't mandatory or vital, with your first viewing still giving you enough to appreciate it as a whole and understand its basic premise.