Transcendence

Fascinating premise

What it’s about

After an assassination attempt Will’s desperate wife uploads his consciousness into a quantum computer to save him. He soon begins making groundbreaking discoveries but also displays signs of a dark and hidden motive.

My thoughts

Despite Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman starring in this film along with Paul Bettany, to say that this film got a poor response would be an understatement, it’s Rotten Tomatoes score is just 19%, the question is though does it deserve such a poor response?

​Well in all honesty yes and no, on one level it did deserve its response, and that is because it was and continues to be billed as a very different film to what it actually is. Basically this is an arty film which has a very deep but also interesting premise which is in reality an exploration of the human mind, so basically this film is about delving into the ethics and philosophies of science and technology.

I imagine a lot of people simply from reading that will think that this is not a film for them. And you could be right, but that does not mean that this is not a good film to which. This brings me back to the question of does it deserve its poor critical score. As a commercial film without a doubt, but if it is watched with what it actually is in mind, an exploration of the human mind and the ethics and philosophies of science, this is for what it is a decent film. Or at least I think it is.

To say the least I’m a fan of films which are not afraid to ask the tough questions and follow through with answers that are truthful and honest to the world they have created. And that’s what this film does, you can argue that the world they have created is rubbish but you cannot deny they stay true to it.

The story itself is at its heart quite simple, a woman is in love with a man, but that man has been poisoned and has only weeks to live and she is desperate to save him.

They are great scientists and one of their friends has been experimenting with uploading a person’s mind onto a computer. One of the big questions of the film is is this actually possible, can you upload a person’s consciousness into a computer. Or, will it simply be a digital copy.

In this film they attempt to find out the answer, illegally of course, because Johnny Depp’s character, Doctor Will Caster, gets uploaded onto the computer. His wife played by Rebecca Hall and his friend Max Waters played by Paul Bettany are the ones who secretly upload Will Caster’s mind to the computer. But there is a bit of caveat, Will Caster had been working on creating a self aware computer and they used that computer as a means to upload his mind.

And this is a big factor in this film, is the uploaded Will Caster actually still Will Caster, or is it simply a computer program which on some levels appears to be Will Caster but in actual fact is not. Evelyn Caster thinks that it’s Will, Max Waters does not.

What muddies the waters is the fact the uploaded Will Caster seems to be on a mission to create a means to save the planet, and through technology is able to pretty much heal people from any injury or disease.

So in away think of it like the self-aware computer from Terminator, Skynet, but in this case rather than wanting to kill people, the uploaded Will Caster has good intentions. But the question is are those good intentions ethical and actually to the benefit of mankind.

Step forward a terrorist group who are against technology, and are afraid of the very technology that Will Caster had been working on. In fact they are the group who attempted to kill Will Caster in the first place. They kidnap Max Waters and turn him to their cause, and eventually through him reach out to Morgan Freeman’s character in an effort to finally take down Depp’s character.

So like said this is very much a film that asks questions about the ethics and morality of technology while at the same time asking philosophical questions about what it means to be alive. Are we simply a body and a mind, nothing more than chemical reactions and brain synapses, or are we something more, a mind with the body.

All in all this film is one of those films that if you’re looking for something for purely entertainment purposes then you may find this a disappointment, you may not but there is a high chance that you will, but if you’re looking for something that will make you think, this will most certainly do that. Whether you will think that it’s a load of rubbish or not is an entirely different story, but it will make you think. That means from me this film gets a thumbs up as like said I love films that make you think.

Director: Wally Pfister

Writer: Jack Paglen

Genre: sci-fi, drama, thriller

Year: 2014

​Runtime: 119 minutes

Tenet

A highly complex but enjoyable thrill ride

What it’s about

A secret agent is given a single word as his weapon and sent to prevent the onset of World War III. He must travel through time and bend the laws of nature in order to be successful in his mission.

My thoughts

Rumour is that it took Christopher Nolan five years to get the idea right in his head, then a further five years to term the idea that was in his head into a script. And considering how complex the plot for this film is it is understandable why it would have taken so long.

This is basically an espionage thriller about time travel, and in a way it feels a little bit of a throwback to classic Bond films, not in the time travel and complexity element, but in the spy battling the bad guy element.

In classic Bond films the narrative normally went along the lines of, Bond uses a girl to get on the inside, the bad guy has control of that girl and that girl finds herself aiding Bond under the belief that should she do so he will help her get away from the bad guy.

The fact that the bad guy in this film is a Russian who plans on destroying the world, just makes the link to Bond films of old even stronger. The fact that the bad guy initially invites the good guy to meet him on his yacht is a further throwback to Bond films of old.

Considering Christopher Nolan also is known to be a big fan of Bond films perhaps the similarities are understandable. Anyhow, I’m digressing, so basically this is sort of classic James Bond type narrative thrown into a world of the most complex time travel you will ever have come across.

Basically, John David Washington’s lead character, and I say lead character because the character never gets a name, all we know is that he is a CIA agent who has been enlisted by a mysterious organisation known only by the name of Tenet. Anyhow, John David Washington’s character, I’ll call him the protagonist, must do battle against Kenneth Branagh’s Russian baddie.

Like said a woman is in the middle of this battle, Kenneth Branagh’s characters wife, who is played by Elizabeth Debicki. She has fallen out of love with Branagh’s character, Sator, but he won’t let her go.

Washington’s character offers to help her in return for her helping him. Before talking about the time travel aspect I want to talk about the problem with the latter. In fact I am going to talk about the problem with this film full stop, and that is lack of characterisation.

Outside of Debicki’s character, Kat, it is really hard to buy into the characters motives, I have no doubt that Washington’s character would want to save the world, but there is just no connection to Debicki’s character, it just doesn’t feel like he has any sort of bond with her, least of all a bond that would make him go to the lengths he is willing to go to to help her.

Then there is Branagh’s character, and this is a little bit of a spoiler alert but not an important one, in fact there are a good number of spoiler alerts in this post but in all honesty spoiler alert won’t spoil this film, in fact you could be told the entire plot and story from start to finish and it likely would not affect your enjoyment of the film. Quite the opposite in fact it may help you understand it.

Anyhow, I’ve gone off track, Branagh’s character, Sator, basically he is planning on ending his life and when he dies the world will end, but his motive for wanting to do so is just not believable. In fact I watched this film with my father, and perhaps he said it best. Why would he want to destroy the world, it makes no sense. Especially considering he has a kid.

And that is exactly it, the character that Nolan has created just does not feel like a character that would be willing to destroy the world, I would buy he desired to rule it but not destroy it. And considering the entire premise is based around the protagonist, so Washington’s character, stopping this guy from doing so you have a big problem right there.

In all honesty this is why this film is not as good as Interstellar or Inception, both of those films had very strong characters, this film does not. And it is not the actor’s fault, they all put in solid performances, I’m not sure it is the fault of the script door the directing, I suspect the thing at fault is the plot. It is simply too complex to spend any real-time building up characterisation.

So this is a film which is completely and entirely about the plot, and the characters really exist as vessels in which to help drive the plot forward.

This brings me to the plot, or rather specifically the time travel, because considering that this film is all about the plot it better be good enough to justify the latter characterisation. Get ready for this, because this plot puts the complex into the word complex, basically people from the future have created a means of time travel. But this is no time travel like any you will have heard of before, this time travel uses basically reverse entropy.

Entropy is in simple terms the reason that time moves forwards rather than backwards. Imagine a vase being smashed, that is a form of entropy, it was a vase, now it has been broken down into shards of glass and once it has been broken down it can never be returned to its previous state.

That is of course unless you have a means to create reverse entropy. Reverse entropy is the opposite of entropy, it is that broken vase going backwards and repairing itself and becoming once more like it once was, a non-broken vase. So basically entropy is things breaking down and entering a new form, reverse entropy is things reverting to a previous form.

This brings me to the time travel in this film, which is basically of the inverted form, which is basically a form of reverse entropy but with the addition of the theory of cause and effect. That means when you invert time and so time travel in this film, you are still going forwards but you are going forwards backwards. So basically you start at the end and go back to the beginning. So imagine you plan to shoot a gun, with an inverted gun the gun has already shot, so when you pull the trigger the bullet returns to the gun. So the entropy is going backwards, rather than things breaking down into a new form, they are reverting into an old form.

Hopefully you understood all that, certainly takes a bit of getting your head around. Anyhow, the future has created this machine and sent it into the past, but in nine separate parts, Branagh’s character is attempting to find these nine parts in our time so that he can construct it. The reason it has been sent into the past is because the future are trying to take their world back into the past because they believe if they do so then they will be able to save their world.

Yes I know, another confusing notion in itself but bear with me. Their world has been destroyed due to climate change, so using basically reverse entropy they are trying to take their world back in time to the point before climate change destroyed the world. That means that they’re basically using reverse entropy to revert the world to a state a.k.a. time in which it was not destroyed.

However, by doing this they will destroy our world, which is our present, or they may do so they don’t really know. So basically they are risking the grandfather paradox – that is the theory where if you destroy the past then you will destroy the future. They are risking this paradox because either they don’t think it is a risk or are willing to risk it anyway to save themselves – we are never told which.

Branagh’s character is the person they are using to construct what is basically a nuclear timebomb, so literally a timebomb, not a timebomb as we know it, but a timebomb that is basically a bomb made of time (high five for originality right there!). This timebomb basically works by crashing a forward timeline into an inverted timeline, and the theory is that when time crashes into itself, it will be a bit like the immovable force crashing into the immovable object. Something which of course is not good.

Anyhow, with this all said, the question is what does this all mean in terms of the film you will be watching should you choose to watch this film? Well it means that there is a lot of things going forwards and backwards at the same time. In a way think of it like this, imagine a fight, you watch one guy fighting the fight from the beginning to the end, you watch the other guy fighting the fight from the end to the beginning. So you are watching the same fight, but you are watching one guy fighting it from the start and the other guy fighting it starting it from the end.

Hopefully that makes sense, if not if you watch the film I’m sure it will. Anyhow, needless to say because of the way the fights are i.e. the participants going forwards and backwards at the same time, this film is quite the spectacle, most people will probably have no idea what is going on, but few will dispute that it’s quite the spectacle.

All in all that means that this is basically a throwback to a classic Bond style film but a unique throwback, because it is a throwback in which the classic Bond style narrative has been merged with one of the most complex time travel style narratives that you will likely ever come across.

That means that this film will in all probability confuse the hell out of you, but all the same may still entertain you. That means some people will get it and some people won’t but whether you get it or not will not likely be the defining factor of whether you enjoy this film are not. The defining factor will most likely be whether you can tolerate the fact that characterisation has been sacrificed almost completely and entirely for plot.

All in all though, one thing is for certain this film will definitely give you something to talk about and it is quite a thrill ride, because of that, and because I love films that make you think, from me it gets a thumbs up.

​Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Genre: action, sci-fi, thriller

Year: 2020

​Runtime: 150 minutes

The Core

An Exhilarating Ride to the Centre of the Earth

What it’s about

When the Earth’s inner core stops spinning, it causes the planet’s electromagnetic field to rapidly deteriorate. The only way to save planet Earth is to set the core spinning again which means a team has to go where no man has gone before, to the centre of the planet where they need to kickstart the core, should they fail then the world will end.

My thoughts

Firstly, this is an entertaining film, secondly, its premise, which is along the lines of a team of experts must journey to the centre of the Earth to restart the planet’s core after an experiment gone wrong had caused it to stop, is brilliant. Thirdly, the journey to the centre of the Earth is an extremely imaginative journey and the writers, Cooper Layne and Jon Rogers, have done very well at imagining what such a journey would be like, what the different layers would be like. Also, the director, Jon Amiel, has done a great job at bringing their vision to life.

Really it just has to be said that, the best thing about this film is the journey to the core, it is exhilarating, imaginative and just downright fun. And considering that the film is about the journey to the core that is of course a very good thing.

But, with all that said, unfortunately it is not as good a film as perhaps it could have been. To explain, firstly there are the very American centric clichéd characters, the most clichéd perhaps being the computer genius who just so happens to be tall and very skinny and very geeky. Also there is a Russian character who is a little eccentric.

There is even the character who of course stole another character’s work and passed it off as their own and got super famous off the back of it, but now of course to save the world the two characters have to work together.

But the clichéd nature of the characters are pretty much an inevitability of the period in which the film was made, in fact when watching a film from the early noughties which was when this was shot you almost expect such clichédness.

However, where this film perhaps falls down a little is in regards to the character fatality rate of this film, without giving much away a good few of the main characters die, and in all honesty in a film like this so many of the lead characters dying just doesn’t really feel right.

To explain, this is very much a typical feelgood film, the world is going to end and the odds of stopping the world ending are so astronomical it beggars belief, but we should not be afraid because there are a team of people who are going to do something seemingly impossible and save us all.

So this is very much a pinch of salt the world is ending but we are going to save it type of film, so it’s a feelgood factor film with this in mind you would of course expect a character death but only one or at most two and you would expect them to die in a very dramatic way.

In this film like I say without giving anything away too many of the main characters die, and as such the deaths just do not feel like they belong in a film of the type they are trying to make. If this was a more realistic type of film, one that really delved into just how complex and how impossible their task was, so a film that was more a nitty-gritty type drama rather than a simple action thriller, then things would have been different.

But the fact is things were not different. Which means when the characters die in reality it just kind of feels like, blah, another one bites the dust. There is just no real connection to them to make you really feel like that death mattered, but then of course there is not it is simply not the type of film to build up those connections.

Like said though despite the overkill of the main characters it is still a highly entertaining watch, not the type of film that will set your heart on fire but the sort that will make you at least invested in what they are doing and will as such entertain, the finale is also quite dramatic and does provide a solid, come on you can do it moment. Because of this from me it gets a thumbs up.

​​Director: Jon Amiel

Writer: Cooper Layne, John Rogers

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi

Year: 2003

​Runtime: 135 minutes

The Martian

Superb Story of Survival Told with a Positive Attitude

What it’s about

When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce storm. With only a meager amount of supplies, the stranded visitor must utilize his wits and spirit to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, members of NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring him home, while his crew mates hatch their own plan for a daring rescue mission.

My thoughts

One thing about this film right off the bat, the visuals are brilliant and it really does make you feel like Matt Damon’s character is trapped on Mars. In regards to the story, it is one of isolation but isolation with a positive attitude which means Matt Damon’s character never feels as isolated as he actually is trapped in hostile conditions one hundred and forty million miles from Earth.

Some could argue that that is a bad thing, but I’m not one of those as I believe that to survive such a situation a positive attitude would most definitely be needed and his positive attitude makes you truly believe that he can not only survive on Mars but make it back home.

That means that this is not one of those nitty-gritty doom and gloom I’m all alone films, this is one of those super positive attitude there is nothing I cannot achieve if I put my mind to it films. That means if anything goes wrong the lead character is just going to smile, get over it and solve the problem, then the next problem, then the next problem and so on. And I have to say a big fan of films like this as I do love a positive attitude.

In regards to the story, it is derived from the smash hit book of the same name which was written by Andy Weir back in 2011. What made the book so compelling was that it came about as a result of Andy Weir wanting to work out the logistics for a journey to Mars.

That led to him posting his chapters on his website as he wrote them, with his fellow science buff friends many of whom were highly skilled people nitpicking the science until the point that the book told a story that was extremely realistic in regard to both the science and the realities of both a mission to Mars and just how difficult it would be to save a person should they become stranded on Mars.

In one of the best things about the film, is that it has largely stayed true to the idea of using present-day science to tell a story of a person being trapped on Mars, along with how difficult it would be to save a person stranded on Mars, along with how difficult it would be for a person stranded on Mars to survive. That means this is to an extent a film which tells a realistic story. Meaning if you want to know how we would save a person trapped on Mars this film will within reason give you a good idea.

One thing I will say is that due to the type of story this is the main character spends the majority of the film alone, and one of the big dangers of doing this is that due to this fact it becomes a straight up bore fest, and what can make things worse is that often the character ends up talking to themselves but not in a natural way, in an exposition laden way. That means that rather than just showing us the story they end up having the main character telling us the story.

Thankfully director Ridley Scott has navigated this issue well, with the moments where Matt Damon talks to himself actually adding to the film, namely by not only showing just how positive he is but also by providing some excellent moments of comedic relief. And in a film that runs for close to 2 1/2 hours and in which for the most part the lead character is alone that is definitely a good thing.

All in all that means this is film with a positive attitude that uses realistic science to tell a story of how a man in the present day should he get trapped on Mars would both survive and be rescued, and the execution of the story is brilliant and for that reason along with the fact that this is good fun film to watch, from me it gets a big thumbs up.

​​Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Drew Goddard, Andy Weir

Genre: adventure, drama, sci-fi

Year: 2015

​Runtime: 144 minutes

Don’t Let Go

A Film That Will Pleasantly Surprise You

What it’s about

Detective Jack Radcliff gets a shocking phone call from his recently murdered niece Ashley. Working together across time, they race to solve the crime before it can happen.

My thoughts

The time travel genre has been done to death over the years which makes finding a new angle from which to use time travel difficult, but this film manages to do just that, the story feeling both fresh and unique.

However, it should be noted this film is a slow starter and many could miss out as a result by switching off too soon. That would be a mistake, because once this film gets going it doesn’t hold back, David Oyelowo and Storm Reid respectively putting in solid performances as detective Jack Radcliff and his niece Ashley.

It’s not a film that’s going to change your life, but it is a film that will pleasantly surprise you. The idea of getting a phone call from your dead niece who is alive and well in the past after all is a mind-boggling notion in its own right, and writer/director Jacob Estes does not miss a beat in using this to build a substantial amount of suspense.

It is perhaps let down a little by the ending where the bad guy played by Mykelti Williamson so freely chases after the young Storm Reid’s character with a shotgun seeming not to care about being seen.

But this should not be held against it as it is after all not a big budget film. Also unlike the majority of time travel films these days it completely avoids any forms of explanation about how the time travel works. This means there is zero technical jargon to be afraid of nor much exposition to worry about.

All in all this is a decent story with a great premise which makes for an entertaining evening watch, which means it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

​​Director: Jacob Estes

Writer: Jacob Estes and Drew Daywalt

Genre: drama, horror, mystery

Year: 2019

​Runtime: 107 minutes