Ok. Welcome to the afterlife.
Also known as: The London Graphic Novel Network Film Club’s 2020 in Review.
(Sound of cheering and applause).
For those of you who haven’t played before – Here are the rules:
1. Yes. You can talk about any film you like
It doesn’t need to have come out this year. It doesn’t even have to be something that you liked. If there was a film that you really hated then you can talk about that. Or maybe you felt massively lukewarm about it. The only real requirement is that it’s something that you’ve seen in this past year and there’s something you want to say about it. (You’re also welcome to lobby for any particular film that you feel like the LGNN Film Club should do in the future if you feel like it…).
2. Name the film in bold at the start of what you write
That way if someone wants to see it and they don’t wanna get spoiled then they can just skip over it with no harm done. (Also if you can find some images from the film and include them – then that would be cool too).
3. Please don’t just recount the plot instead: tell us what you think
Instead of just writing a synopsis (yawn) try this – Talk about what you liked (or didn’t like) about it. But grabbed you / what left you cold. What it did well / what it could have done better. How it made you feel. What kind of things it made you think about. All that good stuff.
4. If someone else has already mentioned a film then don’t worry – that’s ok
This isn’t a first come / first served thing. If someone else has mentioned a film then it’s not off the table – you can still write about it all you want. Ideally we don’t just want lots of solipsistic thoughts floating separately from each other so yeah – if someone mentions a film and you have a differing view please feel free to share (just you know obviously – try to play nice).
5. If you want to talk about a film that the LGNN Film Club has already done then that’s cool too
I’ve often been told that three weeks is never long enough. So if we talked about a particular film at some point in the past and you felt like there was stuff you wanted to say about it that you didn’t get a chance to say – then now’s the time… Go crazy.
If you’re still a little unsure how it works please feel free to look at how we’ve done it in the past:
So. I think that’s it. Hopefully should be fun and interesting and a cool time for everyone (that’s the idea anyway).
The rest is up to you.
Directed by Roland Emmerich
If 2012 didn’t exist you wouldn’t believe it was real.
(Apparently it’s been one of the most popular movies during 2020 because of the whole pandemic / corona / end of the world stuff and well yeah – let me say: I totally get it).
Independence Day always left me cold. Godzilla was probably the first big disappointment I’ve ever had in the cinema. Stargate was overlong. The Day After Tomorrow had some good bits but was mostly kind of forgettable but – OMG – 2012 is basically a masterpiece and if you can’t see that then I feel bad for you.
Of course it’s one of those films (along with Her by Spike Jonze) where I’m not too sure if the people making it realised what story they were telling exactly but if anything that just makes it even better. A film can still be genius even if the film-makers aren’t.
First up the thing that makes this movie such a delight to experience is that it’s trajectory is firmy set downwards right from the start which basically makes me giggle like a naughty school boy. Most movies after all are about trying to stop the end of the world / millions of people dying. I mean yeah ok some disaster movies already have the disaster take place – but there the goal is still to stop some even bigger disaster taking place. Armageddon wipes out Paris but in the end the good guys still manage to prevent – well – Armageddon. Because otherwise what? You’re just going to make a movie where there’s no hope? Where every other scene is some other part of the world being totalled and destroyed and countless human beings having their lives snuffed out forever? Where the final total body count isn’t in the hundreds or the thousands or the millions or in the billions? But that’s impossible. No one would ever pay to watch a movie like that. And Hollywood would never make it.
If 2012 didn’t exist you wouldn’t believe it was real.
The amount of death and destruction in this movie is unparalleled and seeing how they basically manage to kill off the entire human race apart from a bunch of people who make it to the boats I’m guessing anyone else is going to have a hard time topping it. And the emotional effect as you watch all these cities explode and all of these people die is a really strange trip man. Like do I sound like an inhuman monster if I said that the 2012 experience is weirdly… soothing? Maybe the end of the world always is. But it’s also that thing of finally getting to experience what’s never been allowed. I don’t know if I’m the only one that always feels a tiny bit disappointed when you’re watching a movie and the bad guy’s evil plan is thwarted in the final moment? I mean yeah I guess I want the good guys to win but also I really like big explosions and scenes of epic destruction and devastation you know? Watching 2012 is like finally getting to eat all of the ice cream that in the past you were ever allowed to have… Except the ice cream is actually death and death and death. And then more death. With extra death on top.
Like there’s this bit where they’re flying their plane and they’re supposed to land in Hawaii to refuel but then they fly over and it turns out that the entirety of Hawaii is just covered in lava and completely and utterly fucked and everyone there is all the way dead (no hope etc) and on the one hand yeah it’s pretty horrifying and yet on the other it has this really strange calming effect. I mean I could get political and quote the Zizek line about how it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism and be like – well – actually 2012 kinda shows you both (in a sense). But also well – I don’t think it’s too much to say that there’s a physical cost that comes from living on a planet with 7.8 billion people and you know being constantly connected and everything that comes with that – and then you’re watching this movie and it’s like – you just see everything fall away and nothing really matters anymore. And yeah I don’t know but watching it kinda gives me this… kinda warm soft feeling. Like having a nice hot bubble bath.
Also – and stay with me here – but in its own silly way I kinda think that there’s a good argument to be made that 2012 is one of the most Marxist Hollywood blockbuster movies of all time. And like not because it has a particularly good argument to make about anything but merely through the fact that it tells a story about how (spoiler alert) if the world was ending then all the politicians in the world would keep it a secret and then sell massively expensive tickets to secret arks so that only the super rich could survive.
I mean the first time I saw it I was: HOLY FUCKING WOW. But then also – where’s the lie?
And yeah just the fact that this movie presents this staggeringly politically inflammatory idea as a matter-of-fact type of thing feels quietly revolutionary to me. But then again – maybe I’m just taking different medicine to the rest of you guys. For everyone else I guess it’s a matter of shrugging and going: well yeah – but so what? That’s what would happen.
If 2012 didn’t exist you wouldn’t believe it was real. And yeah no one really gets outraged or anything – because John Cusack is a poor schmo and our point of view character and so you know – if he can save himself and his family then everything is ok and all the other billions of poor people on the planet don’t really matter right? I mean – they’re not speaking parts (LOL).
But all that isn’t the main reason why I love this movie and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it unreservedly.
Nah. The big main reason why I love it is this guy:
This is Oliver Platt. He plays a character called Carl Anheuser who’s the White House Chief of Staff (if he seems a little familiar you should know that he plays exactly the same character in The West Wing lol). And well yeah he’s basically the unfeeling bad guy of the movie. The cold-hearted pragmatist. There’s a scene early one when everyone is trying to save their loved ones and it turns out that Oliver Platt isn’t even bothering to save his own mother.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (as geologist Adrian Helmsley): I thought for sure they’d give you an extra ticket, sir.
Oliver Platt: They did. But my mother is almost 89. She’s in a wheelchair, and she’s easily confused. And I am confident that she would want to meet her maker on her own terms, okay?
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Yes, sir. Who are you bringing?
Oliver Platt: Nobody. Who, my ex-wife? Last thing she said to me she never wanted to see me again. So be it.
Booo. What a monster.
If you didn’t know – Chiwetel Ejiofor is obviously the hero of the movie.
He’s moral. Kind-hearted. Liberal. He likes books. And he believes in doing the right thing no matter what.
And the thing that makes 2012 amazing and brings me such a rush of joy that I can barely contain myself is that even tho in nearly every other possible situation Chiwetel Ejiofor would be on the side of the angels and Oliver Platt would be on Team Demon – the way everything ends up in 2012 is that Oliver Platt is in the right and Chiwetel Ejiofor is totally fucking everything up and you’ve basically got no idea if the movie realises it or not.
So for those who haven’t seen (or don’t recall) – at the end of the movie everything is getting fucked up and the shit has hit the fan. Not all of the big Arks that were supposed to save all of the (super rich) people were ready in time so there’s only 3 of them to save the entirety of humanity and John Cusack (who’s still trying to save his white trash family) is trying to sneak onboard one of the Arks etc etc and basically there comes this point where the person who’s in charge (That’s Oliver Platt) has a decision to make – either he can open up the gate to the Ark and let in all these people who are going to die if he doesn’t or he can play it safe and leave them to die but well you know – ensure the survival of humanity. And at the risk of sounding like a heartless prick here it seems obvious that if there’s a choice between saving more people but running the risk that humanity dies or playing it safe and making sure that the human race continues to survive (even if it is just the super rich) then erm: the choice seems clear – no?
I mean this is literally how it goes:
Chiwetel Ejiofor: I know we’ve all been forced to make difficult decisions to save our human civilization. But to be human means to care for each other and civilization means to work together to create a better life. If that’s true, then there’s nothing human and nothing civilized about what we’re doing here.
Oliver Platt: Dr. Helmsley’s passion is admirable. But I will remind you that we have very limited resources and extremely limited time.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Ask yourselves, can we really stand by and watch these people die? I read a quote two days ago. The author is probably dead by now, but he said: ‘The moment we stop fighting for each other that’s the moment that we lose our humanity.’
Oliver Platt: And in order to save the human race we have an obligation to stick to this plan which every nation on this flotilla has signed up for.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: We have to let these people in!
Of course of course Chiwetel Ejiofor gets the last word. And of course they let the people. And of course this being a movie – something goes wrong (John Cusack and his white trash family mess up the gate closing mechanism LOL) which means that (although the movie doesn’t comment on this) – Chiwetel Ejiofor and his warm-hearted fluffy liberal humanism that he insists that everyone else follows almost gets everyone killed and it’s only through a last minute bit of luck / movie magic that everyone survives. (Phew).
But like I said: if this wasn’t actually in a movie. You’d think it was unreal.
Because – fuck – if I had been a (super rich) person on that Ark and I had found out that Chiwetel Ejiofor had literally risked the human race just to save the idea of humanity then I would have done by upmost best to make sure that he was a social pariah for a good long time and maybe get him to reaccess his belief system. I mean don’t get me wrong – a unwavering faith in the idea of humanity and civilization is a good and admirable trait when you’re got loads of humans to spare but when you’re down to the last few thousand or so it’s probably best not to risk the survival of the species because it makes you feel morally uncomfortable you know?
And yeah I have no idea if Roland Emmerich intended all this stuff. But it doesn’t matter. It’s still all there if you want it. And it makes my brain go NOM NOM NOM and I’m not sure if there’s anything else that really comes close to the experience of watching it.
So all in all – it’s a great fucking movie. Almost unreal. But hey – that’s how you know it’s good.
Frog Dreaming (1985)
“Frog Dreaming?!” I hear you ask. Well I am glad you asked. You see back in the day before cinemas were all multiplexes, the ICA on Pall Mall used to regularly show random movies and my parents used to take us there and maybe they stayed but maybe they just left us in there while they had a coffee and carrot cake. It’s exactly the sort of place which would would have shown early Miyazaki but also Charlie Brown Christmas specials (but in June).
The fondest movie memory I have there is a film called Frog Dreaming and the best way to describe it is basically a less satirical Eerie Indiana. It had the boy from ET and Bronwyn from Neighbours and was the sort of Saturday morning caper that used to be the staple of TV. The plot was basically “there’s a mysterious monster and all the adults are too busy to worry about it and only the nerd inventor kid has the mad skills to get to the bottom of things.” Which is basically the plot of Young Sherlock Holmes and the Goonies and about a hundred other things.
The thing is those movies had substantial budgets where as Frog Dreaming just built up a mood based around Australian folklore. It struck a good balance between summer adventure and restrained menace so that you were worried about the heroes but also quietly confident they would find a way through relying on their pluck and determination. There are no guns and no Deus Ex Machina magic finger to solve anyone’s problems and there wasn’t even any valuable lessons – other than perhaps that what better way to spend your summer holidays than making weird gadgets and solving mysteries. The children all make sensible decisions without just being adults and because it takes itself seriously you kind of have to take it on its own terms.
However l as with many 80s movies that also makes it hard to overlook the racism and it’s an interesting case because one hand it’s trying hard to be inclusive and acknowledge there are aboriginal people and these people have their own culture. However it’s the same way (although not quite as bad) as the way Temple of Doom acknowledges Indian people have their own culture. It’s also just a bit stereotypical and 80s and feels a little like window dressing to give credibility to the film’s mythos. I often feel uneasy about accusations of cultural appropriation because it’s often meaningless, but then you see a few embarrassed aboriginal people being pushed forward to perform for a white audience and that is also a little bleak, even if it is with good intentions.
The other thing which is interesting is that no one saw this film at the cinema and I don’t really understand why. I mean “I” saw it at the cinema and it was also shown at 6pm on BBC2 once in the 90s, but according to the box office of Aus$171,000 by her purchase of three tickets my mum should have had been given an Executive Producer credit. So for me (and possible only me – the films has multiple names and the posters cheekily imply there is some sort of lightsaber) this film which I have only seen twice, and most recently in the mid 90s holds that weird nostalgia slot in my movie education tech tree somehow tagging together the MacGuyver and ET memories so that I am left with fond recollections of nothing much other than probably the 80s being a good time for adventure movies starring kids. That doesn’t mean much to me now but I guess when I was 8 it was very important. The “Rugged Individualism” philosophy of the 80s might well be some bullshit hangover from westerns celebrating the genocide of native Americans, but man is it a great excuse for protagonists to just do stuff. “Oh no I am trapped by the bad guys with only this workshop full of tools and an armoured car to work with. How will I save the day?”
Speaking of rugged individuals last week I watched Christmas Chronicles 2 starring Snake Plissken and while it would be unfair to make a direct comparison the first thing to note is that the children in that movie have zero agency. They get sent to Santa’s land and then Santa (Snake) tells them what to do, their only role is to react to various crises and learn valuable lessons along the way about the meaning of Christmas. This is not to say that modern films are like this, but often even in ones where children are in charge (Miraculous, How to Train Your Dragon, um Captain Underpants) there is some sort of CIA gadget or magic or er giant man in their pants to solve all their problems is exactly what I would be saying if I was trying to pad out this review within hackneyed comparisons with contemporary tv programming. Christmas Chronicles 2 was rubbish though.
I think the real reason I’m struggling to think of any modern simile to Frog Dreaming is that plenty of new kids stuff is probably great but it’s not “for” me any more so I can’t make any real connection to it and find it almost impossible to compare and contrast with films I enjoyed as a child any more than I can compare Super Mario Bros with Call of Duty. That’s not to say there isn’t lots of stuff that should be for children but is largely marketed to me. With my ridiculous purchasing power it would be silly of film makers to overlook the middle-aged man-child bracket, but when I watch them with my kids it’s like we are experiencing different things. Watching Force Awakens you realise how the arc feels weird because they have chopped it up into 10 minute vignettes because that’s how the Netflix generation consume things. Maybe Frog Dreaming was also pushing my 80s-kid buttons, although given that it was hardly a runaway success maybe it wasn’t pushing them well enough.
So 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year in film.
Despite starting out with the likes of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Uncut Gems and The Personal History of David Copperfield, the rest of the year saw what little that remained bled out onto streaming sites. Our leftover hopes for the year rested and were promptly dashed on the release of Tenet – a film where the price of being able to comprehend a generic 007 plot is understanding a nonsensical quantum physics theory that is mumbled once 15 minutes into the film. This could be tolerable in light of some of the brilliant action spectacle that follows – but as the plot seems to be driven by Kenneth Branagh playing a model assembly kit of a villain that was never entirely finished – it’s a fireworks display with pompous intellectual ambition. It marks a transition, from the auteur of Interstellar and Dunkirk who played with time, sound and dialogue to create unique sensory experiences in a cinema to the worrying signs of pretentious Michael Bay. Also a shout out to Mank, a Fincher film so boring that this is all I could be bothered to write about it.
Still, outside of the review below, there were some 2020 standouts in a year of cinema that was mostly relegated to a 10 year old monitor –
- The Report – Burns
- Uncut Gems – Safdie Brothers
- The Personal History of David Copperfield – Iannucci
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire – Sciamma
- Da 5 Bloods – Lee
- Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – Ross Brothers
- Soul – Docter
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot
Being a Kevin Smith fan in 2020 is a bit like being a parent to a failed child prodigy. Where the noughties saw Smith promised as the future of cinema, reality has seen the Clerks legacy obscured by a succession of increasingly tired stoner flicks and interesting, if ultimately forgettable horror plays.
Smith’s first return to Jay and Silent Bob in fifteen years, held some limpen promise of the return of a film maker whose promise alone proved so influential that it helped usher in the cannibalistic pop culture world we live in now. Reboot isn’t a total return to form, nor is it the belated delivery of Smith’s once shining promise. This is not as one Variety article once claimed about him, the next Martin Scorcese. What it is, is the first genuinely entertaining entry in Smith’s canon for years. As his first success in a while, it puts a few things into focus about who Smith is as a film maker and why the hype about him was arguably so misjudged for so long:
Smith is a great writer who also happens to direct. He writes goofy characters and fast paced, naturalistic dialogue. Then he cuts it to an emotionally accessible 90s pop punk track and sails off into the sunset. We remember his characters, we remember his dialogue. We do not remember his distinct approach to composition and production design. The writing, It’s what made Clerks such a break-out, a progenitor of mumble-core that stands alongside Before Sunrise and Sex, Lies and Videotape. It’s kitchen sink naturalism but instead of some dour, familiar tragedy, it’s a pair of clerks chatting shit, bitching about Star Wars and dealing with the cycle of everyday disappointment. As simple as that. The more high concept Smith has gotten (with the notable exception of Dogma), the more his returns have diminished. Smith directs in so far as he’s great at wringing fun, authentic performances from his actors but after that – he points the camera so it frames those actors in a mid shot and leaves it there for the rest of the film. It’s almost exhausting to look at as a result. There’s a reason Smith isn’t being called to direct episodes of American sitcoms that have from the era of Clerks to the present day, become entirely at home to be told in increasingly cinematic ways. It’s not surprising that he never Instead he’s stepping into episodes of Superhero dramas, like The Flash or Supergirl, which have a pre-set visual language for him to follow. This leaves him to focus on his directorial strength, helping the actors to do more from the script at hand.
And that all comes to show in Reboot. Yes, there’s a near grim determination on Smith’s part to tell the film through the medium shot format. But beyond that, it’s a succession of fun stoner pop culture jokes, stubborn immaturity and writing that is a joy to behold in it’s quiet emotional power, zippily conversational tenor and simple capacity to make you smirk. The Ben Affleck speech is perhaps my favourite bit of film writing this year. It’s schlocky, it’s on the nose – but it’s honest and it’s thoughtful and it’s sweet so it works like a charm. It’s deeply satisfying to see Smith remind us there’s still a writer under the Smodcast hockey jersey. Reboot may not be the sudden arrival of a 25 year old hype train, but it’s a relaxed reminder of why we were all so excited about Smith way back when.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)
Early on in Lockdown 1 we started to institute a movie night with the children. This is tricky as it is hard to find content that will appeal to a 9 year old a 7 year old and 5 year old. While I certainly like the idea of my children enjoying the movies I enjoyed when I was young they never quite seem ready. Ghostbusters was too weird, Back to the Future had too much romance, Temple of Doom too racist, Apocalypse Now too long. The children are simply just too young and not emotionally prepared for Bill Murray’s wide cracking sexual harassment or witnessing someone having their still beating heart ripped from their chest. While this is pretty selfish behaviour on their part considering I dimly recall watching James Bond with my dad in the 80s, I also I doubt he let me watch James Bond shag and murder his way across various European casino districts when I was 5.
Of course there are movies, such as Pixar’s output, which appeal to everyone but the secret answer of course is that rather than try to adapt my children to movies I should just choose the films that have adapted themselves for younger children. This is tricky though as many modern movies for children are CG and look terrible and then other things are live action with appalling young actors with shiny teeth and also look terrible, and then are the shows which blend live action and CG which are simply terrible. It’s a difficult situation.
At first glance this is exactly what Dora the Explorer the movie looks like. For those not aware Dora is a Spanish speaking child who goes on educational adventures for children 6 years and under. The animated original is very old school and the plots are just a series of set pieces and songs strung together. Needless to say it is ludicrously popular. So my expectations for the movie could not have been lower. It does have a CGI monkey, and a cast of teenagers with impossibly white teeth, and a fish out of water high school plot. However. It is amazing.
First of all to set your minds at ease Boots the animated monkey is voiced by Danny Trejo and the animation of the cartoon is brought back as the main characters experience an Ayahuasca style trip which is genuinely funny. But what the film does really well is stealth transform from High School Musical into Raiders of the Lost Ark and commit to that as far as they can go. Secondly it is also bizarrely well written (for this sort of show) both in terms of the plot development but also the obligatory badinage between the teenage cast. It’s not exactly Wildean wit but the patter is quick enough that you can’t feel the characters pausing for the audience to laugh at their 90s reactions to events. Lastly the action is well paced and well planned and largely works within the film’s internal logic, even providing some small measure of character development as the insecure teenage idiots learn to take control of situations.
This sort of thing doesn’t happen often enough, which is a shame. I guess Marvel are sneaking all the good writers away to desperately fix their over-written first drafts, but as the Lego Movie and Spiderverse have also demonstrated there is no need for kids stuff to be shit. But while you might get a cartoon spin off like a Clone Wars or Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous it’s rare to see traffic going in the other direction where a very juvenile cartoon is combined with a film like Indian Jones and makes it work. It would be like if someone found a way to combine Paw Patrol with the Matrix or Peppa Pig with Se7en [mental note: these would both actually be really good film pitches], or took Batman: The Animated Series and turned that into a gritty move franchise. If only. Instead there are expensive adaptations of His Dark Materials and Artemis Fowl which seemed almost scared of their own budgets and as a result were just boring, like they weren’t sure who they were making it for, so they just glumly trudge through the plot of the book and hope the frantic mugging of the all star cast can see them through.
At a time when the government has insisted I spend vast quantities of time with my children the films I need don’t need to be original and they don’t have to have the sweeping operatic scope of Star Wars or Harry and the Hendersons, they just need to be fun, and fun is Indian Jones but you know, for kids.
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
A bunch of strangers wake up trapped inside a series of interlocked rooms with no way out. Insert obvious Lockdown joke here. Insert obvious going to work joke here. Insert obvious “sounds like a Christmas movie” joke here.
I have a very clear memory of the very first time I saw Cube. I remember reading a review in the Guardian when I was like 13 years old or something and it sounded so cool that I told my best friend about it and convinced him that we had to go to the cinema to see it. The only issue was that the only place showing it was all the way in Soho (one of those fancy places with the swish seats) but what the hell right? So we took a trip into central London and paid like £100 each for a ticket (Soho prices natch) and then settled down into watching this movie with the irresistible premise. I mean we really wanted a late evening showing like how you do a film properly but damn it – the only time it was showing was like 2 o’clock in the afternoon or something silly like that.
I can’t now say what it was about that initial review that hooked me in and filled me with enough religious fervour to make this ridiculous crusade into the heart of darkness. Strangers waking up in a strange location? Something about death traps maybe? Maybe it’s the obvious tantalizing question hanging over it all – what happens when they get to the end and find out the answers? Is it some evil government machine? Monsters from another dimension? Aliens? I don’t remember. What I do remember tho is that feeling of walking out of the cinema and just feeling completely and and fully and totally exhilarated. Every section of my body going “HOLY WOW” and being stunned that somehow it was still only daylight and that everyone outside was just walking around like everything was fine. I don’t think it’s being too over the top or outrageous to say that every time I’ve gone to the cinema since I’ve been chasing that same sort of high (this is why I find so many films so disappointing LOL).
But yeah ok – cards on the table time. I think there’s a good argument to make that Cube is basically (for what it is) a perfect movie. Yeah ok some of the acting is a bit creaky (even for my tastes which doesn’t really much attention to that kind of stuff), some of the dialogues clunks like an old-fashioned robot walking down the stairs and yeah yeah it’s so dated that it should be wearing a Global Hypercolor T-Shirt and listening to a CD Walkman but hey also – shut up.
(There was a point where I would have sworn blind that Vincenzo Natali was going to be the next Spielberg (Cube > Duel) but alas sadly it wasn’t to be).
But hey first up: what a great fucking premise for a movie. A bunch of strangers wake up in a strange room cube with no idea how they got there. Every cube has six doors / hatches. And each hatch leads to another cube with another six hatches. It’s like Kafka crossed with Borges. Plus death traps.
I have a little theory that every story has a set amount of space in which it can unfold itself from its premise. Every start gives you a certain amount of story where you can go from. It’s like you have a finite amount of material and so there’s only so far you can stretch it. When a film is poorly written it’s because it doesn’t make the best use of it’s starting point. It leaves bits uncovered. Ingredients not used. Potential not realised. Cube tho wrings everything possible from its starting point – it takes this cool idea and then extrapolates every possible permutation it can from it in a way that almost feels mathematical but really is just gorgeous storytelling: precise and to the point. And so when you get to the end you feel like they got everything they possibly could from things. Like a sweet fat juicy fruit that’s been sucked completely dry.
And yeah obviously necessity is the mother of direction. Apparently they had no money and so they thought what if they just built one set and then lit it with different colours and pretended it was a whole labyrinth but honestly that just makes me love it even more. For me it’s actually the perfect sci-fi movie in that pretty much all of it is just about the unspooling of various ideas and each dramatic moment comes from another realisation or another shoe dropping. I mean there’s an often repeated cliche that old fashioned TV sci-fi is just people standing around in rooms talking to each other and Cube is basically that idea pushed as hard and as far as it possibly can. A film where it’s the rooms that are the main source of the drama. (I swear to god that I get actual goosebumps at the moment where that one character says “…Two.”).
Also yeah kudos for the fact that it never quite answers your questions and keeps you a few steps away from understanding everything completely. And yeah ok it’s a bit shlocky or whatever but I don’t care. You could say that it feels like watching a school play. But I love it anyway. There’s so many nice moments. Some many small telling devious details. And every little piece just locks and turns and twists in such a satisfying way that I can’t help myself from smiling like a crazy person every time I watch it.
I wish all movies were this inventive / this smart / this good.
This post was created by our Film Club email list.
If you’d like to join the conversation send an email marked “Film Club” to here.