Day of four of Fantastic Fest was time travel movie day, and by far the best day of the fest for me personally!
First up was the incredibly low budget time-travel sci-fi Young Gun In The Time (yes, this grammar is intentional). This film was shot on a thirty thousand dollar budget, which blows my mind because it looks like it could easily be a million dollar film. Oh Young-doo’s previous film, Invasion of Alien Bikini, which I haven’t seen but have heard nothing but good things, was shot for five thousand dollars and it’s award at the Yubari International Film Fest is directly responsible for Young Gun getting made.
The Young Gun in this case is a private investigator for whom no job is too big or too small. When a young attractive museum researcher comes to him with a request to find a special watch and also to kill a man, however, he turns down the job. He isn’t in the murder business. But, the young woman’s story intrigues him, so he follows her and then witnesses her kidnapping and subsequent death. So of course now he has to figure out what is going on. When he finds out who the woman is he goes to the museum where she worked only to find her alive and healthy with no idea of who he is. Time travel is a tricky thing. And so is comedy, but this movie is as funny as it is smart. The lead actor, Hong Young-Geun, steals every scene as the quirky, charismatic, hawaiian shirt wearing gum shoe. Add to that his tech savvy buddy who runs a sex shop, his business savvy partner with a penchant for heels and too much makeup, his robotic hand, a villain who might be the Korean Johnny Depp, and a smart story with some serious heart and you have probably my favorite film of the festival. Let me put it this way, this film is now on my list with other must see time-travel films such as Time Crimes, Primer, 12 Monkeys and The Jacket.
Next up was the much anticipated Joseph Gordon-Levitt Bruce Willis film, Looper. Looper is the third feature length film of director Rian Johnson who wrote and directed Brick and The Brothers Bloom, both of which are great films but more importantly they are very unique. Looperis no exception. Not only are Johnsons’s films distinct from each other but they are distinct from anything else out there as well. Tim League made an excellent point, if maybe a tad optimistic, when introducing the film… if this film does well, as we all expect it will, he hopes it will usher in a new era in Hollywood filmmaking. One in which good original story ideas are more sought after than remakes and reboots and sequels. I hope he’s right. Because this is a unique film with a well crafted story and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
In the year 2042, Joseph Simmons (Levitt) is a special assassin called a Looper working for a mafia that exists thirty years in the future. They use time travel to send back individuals they need disposed of. When the organization wishes to terminate their Loopers they send the future version of the Looper back in time the same way they do a regular hit, along with a significant amount of gold as payment. The looper can retire and live on the payoff for the next thirty years.And because the target is wearing a hood the Looper doesn’t know he has just terminated himself until he sees said gold. As we all know, Joe’s contract termination doesn’t go as planned, and future Joe (Bruce Willis) escapes. It’s a great premise that gives the story teller an enormous amount of possibilities to work with and it’s exciting to see where he decides to take it. I’m not going to tell you anymore because it would just ruin all the fun. I’ll just say this… it’s imaginative, well paced, and internally consistent with characters that are well fleshed out and who make decisions that actually make sense. Nothing that happens seems outside the realm of possibility within the fictional universe of the film. They play with the idea of the consequences of time travel to great effect and in a way that I haven’t really seen done quite like this before. So on top of everything its fresh.
Director Rian Johnson discussed some of the process of making the film that I thought was particularly interesting. He wrote the script about ten years ago on spec, meaning he didn’t have a deal beforehand for the film. In addition to that it was essentially an independent film financed through Endgame Entertainment (an independent production company that also produced The Brothers Bloom). FilmDistrict, another independent, picked it up at Cannes 2011 and is releasing it in the US through TriStar Pictures. So this isn’t a huge studio film with all the backing and resources of, say, Universal or something. It came up independently, which I love, and I hope it makes a huge impression, because it wasn’t what I expected it to be and being pleasantly surprised by a film so rarely happens these days.
Next came the Norwegian cocaine-heist-comedy Fuck Up. And yes, this film is aptly named. It follows four friends who live in a small border town near Sweden. Three of the friends, Glen, Jack and Rasmussen, are most definitely fuck ups. The fourth, Robin, the only girl in the group, went on to become a doctor but still has a great deal of affection for her three ridiculous friends and can’t resist at least trying to help get them out of trouble. Jack, Robin and Rasmussen individually lend Glen large sums of money, unbeknownst to each other. Glen subsequently turns up in a car crash near the border, having hit a moose while transporting several kilos of cocaine in from Sweden. The three friends then hatch a plan to liberate the stash from the car because they believe Glen used the money they lent him to purchase it and it won’t be long until the police find out. Add to that some Swedish mobsters who have also invested in the package, on top of the series of bad choices made by Rasmussen and Jack’s crumbling marriage (which is happening because of what a fuck up he is).
It seems like Norwegian films really resonate with me lately. Last year was Troll Hunter, Headhunters, and You Said What? . All amazing, and Fuck Up is no exception. I think my Grandpa Engen would be pleased.
I ended my day with the great British thriller, Tower Block. This is the debut feature for directors Ronnie Thompson and James Nunn. Writer James Moran has worked on a number of things I’ve liked including an episode of Doctor Who (The Fires of Pompeii), Torchwood (Children of Earth) and Severance.
Tower Block opens with the murder of a fifteen year old kid by some thugs on the top floor of a block (a high-rise low-income housing development in England). A year later the final residents of said block, which is scheduled to be demolished post-haste, start getting picked off by a sniper with all their exits cut off as well as any communication with the outside world. The premise is highly unlikely but that doesn’t take away from the extremely high level of tension the filmmakers are able to create. The other great strength of this movie is the depth of the characters and the very realistic relationships that develop between them. The film stars Sheridan Smith (Hysteria) as Becky and Russell Tovey (Being Human – UK) as Paul, both of whom deliver great performances, as do the rest of the rather small cast. They just made it so damn believable. I do think the reveal of who the sniper is and why this person was doing it was a little weak, but they moved past that relatively quickly and was completely forgivable.
Man, four movies is a lot in one day. I’m glad they were all so good!
Check out the trailers below…
Young Gun In the Time
Fuck Up (no english subs, sorry)