Film & TV

Staff Scrapbook: Time Travel

Coming to you from the astral plane, Impact brings you our favourite films to feature time travel…

Midnight In Paris

When you think of time travel, you think of Morlocks, Terminators and Marty McFly, not Woody Allen – he’s the king of miserable yet hilarious realism, not sci-fi. But this is sophisticated time travel – there are no inaccurately dressed cavemen or unconvincing Doctor Who aliens; instead, for some unexplained reason, an aspiring author (Owen Wilson) is transported back in time to one of the greatest periods in literary history – Paris in the 1920s. He becomes acquainted with the likes of Hemingway, Dali, Picasso and T. S. Eliot, and even gets Gertrude Stein to give him feedback on his unpublished novel. It’s the kind of film that makes you feel intelligent because you understand most of the references (unusual for a Woody Allen script). Allen’s writing is so good, so realistic, that now whenever I imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald, I picture Tom Hiddleston drinking cognac in a dimly-lit backstreet café. Midnight in Paris is less a comedy, more a love letter to the past: nostalgic, charming and a tiny bit inspiring.

Source Code

Duncan Jones, son of rock deity David Bowie, burst onto the sci-fi scene back in 2009 with the quiet but astonishing hit, Moon. It would be two years until he released his breakthrough hit, Source Code, a time and genre-bending thriller about a soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up on a commuter train only to find the body he’s in is not his own, with eight minutes to disarm a dirty bomb located somewhere in the carriage. In a Groundhog Day-like twist, he learns that this is part of a preventative military exercise in which he must keep reliving these moments until he discovers the location of the device and the bomber. Jones may have upped the action ante with Source Code, but it still has all of the smarts he showed his in his debut. His ability to successfully blend Hitchcockian thriller with complex sci-fi and a classic action story makes it an unmissable addition to the genre and hopefully a modern classic. I’ll let you know when I’m back from 2021.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

Alfonso Cuaron’s contribution to the franchise is arguably the best-made if not the one that most fans tend to reminisce about. Dementors, Patronuses (Patroni?), Gary Oldman – Azkaban was the film that introduced some of the most unforgettable elements of the series, moving in a darker, more mature direction. It was also the film that featured one of the more complicated creations in Harry Potter lore – the Time Turner, an hourglass necklace that takes the wearer back in time. In a brilliant example of the predetermination paradox, Harry views his future self cast the spell that saves him before going back in time to cast the spell himself. In doing so, he sets up the events of a linear timeline to keep happening repeatedly. Simply put, nothing really changes, but what a brilliant way to do it! Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban remains a complex blend of wizardry, both technical and artistic. It was the first in the series that broke the generic ‘fairy tale’ approach of its predecessors, and in doing so, spawned the best story telling the franchise has ever seen. Perhaps the biggest shame is that it is still the only one that involved Cuaron.

Back to the Future

Widely acknowledged as a sci-fi staple, Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future, is the film that truly put Michael J. Fox’s name in lights. Although it was released over 25 years ago, it thankfully lacks the cringe aspect that usually goes hand-in-hand with 80s films, becoming instead, by great direction or simply luck, an almost completely timeless classic. Despite its occasionally creepy incestuous overtones, Back to the Future has seldom been beaten by its successors in terms of wit, fun, and rewatchability; if you claim not to have seen it at least twice you’re probably lying and a Sunday afternoon on Channel 5 is hardly the same without it. The fact that a 1985 film in which Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox turn a DeLorean into a time machine and use it to match make two awkward teenagers is still being watched (and adored) even in 2012 is a testament to how one single cinematic gem can truly withstand the test of time, which I suppose, considering its subject matter, is really very appropriate.

Felix Taylor, Josh Franks, Ibtisam Ahmed & Katie Woods

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Image by Cyril Rana via Flickr

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