Thursday, July 28, 2011

Four Mind Bending Sci-Fi Films

A few months ago I read a post somewhere (no link, can't find it easily, and there are a bajillion similar) that commented on the shared DNA of four films in the past year.

It pivoted around the blockbusting Nolan epic of last summer, Inception, and went on to point out that there were three other films that fairly succesfully mined that similar fuck-with-your-head and question-your-sense-of-reality territory within following 12 months.

The follow-up films were; The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code and Limitless.

Over the past month Jodie and I watched them all (having watched Inception in the cinema as our last theatre experience before becoming parents and of course all that entails and limits).

It needs to be said that Inception is the superior film - though I must confess, that even as  big fan of Christopher Nolan, I found it a bit over-hyped.  But beyond that, yeah, all of these films are quite enjoyable and worth seeing.

I had the good fortune of knowing very little about any of these films and I will keep it that way for you.

The Adjustment Bureau as the opening credits will tell you, is based on a book by Phillip K. Dick, so if you are a fan of this sub-sub-genre of fiction you kind of already have a sense of where it might go.  Overall it's a pretty fluffy film and didn't really treat the material how I would have liked to have seen it done, but it managed to stay entertaining throughout and the worst thing I can say about it is I hated the hats.  So it passes.  Though it was my least favourite of the three.

Source Code is directed by Duncan Jones, who with this film should have earned the right to not have anyone point out on his next film that he is David Bowie's son.  I thought it gave it's secrets away too easily, and one major plot point at the 2/3rd mark is too casually handled, but overall I quite liked this film.  Duncan Jones, you make smart sci-fi.  (He also directed Moon - which apart from a CSI-Tycho fail was awesome.)  However... two quibbles: 1) There are about five minutes at the end of the film that seemed totally un-necessary to me.  As though Jones had said "here is my film" and the studio said "don't you fucking dare end it so ambiguously and play only to the smart cinema goer."  And being that the studio gets to make those calls there is another five minutes that ties everything up far too neatly and kind of patronizingly.  2) What the hell was Jeffery Wright thinking?  My guess is that somewhere along the line he has got the message that people like the Jeffery Wright mannerisms and that he should cram every single trick and twitch he has in his toolkit into every scene.  That seems to be what he is doing here - like he is playing a characterization of Jeffery Wright.  But seriously, I quibble.  I suspect that Jodie would say that this was her least favourite of the films, but I enjoyed it.

I really did not expect Limitless to come out of this battle-royale on top.  And to be fair, I don't know why it was included in this grouping of recommendations - it stands out in a "one of these things is not like the other" kind of way, though I'll spare you the specifics of why as there is some mystery involved and to say why it stands out would be to narrow the scope of the mystery.  It's fun.  It is stylish (if a bit obvious in it's visual choices).  It may be a bit pat in it's end - but unlike Source Code it wasn't betraying any promises by doing so, it simply is that kind of film.  It actually succeeds by never really trying to be more than it is.  It is smart (enough) and doesn't try to over-extend its reach as a popcorn film.  It even earns itself some forgiveness where the plotting gets stretched a bit.

All in all, if you are a fan of smart, contemporary-set, sci-fi with a healthy dash of "what the hell is going on?" (at least at first), then I can gladly recommend any of these films, or as a set as we watched them.