21st Century Films that Played Fast and Loose with Time – And Nailed It

By Guest Blogger: Anubhav Proothi
Movies are great, right? It’s amazing how for two and something hours we just completely abandon all that’s messed up in our personal affairs and get involved in a fictional life that, more often than not, ends on an impossibly happy note. Yes, the convenience of escapism is undeniable. Yes, that’s my plan for tonight too.
It gets even more trippy when this escapism goes beyond regular human realm, beyond our linear worlds bound by partly-understood laws of physics, beyond the confines of space-time itself. It is at this elevated juncture that the best of directors get all jizzy in their underpants, thus spawning the genre we so fondly call sci-fi.
Luckily for them (and thereby us), there are far too many branches of science whose implications are incredible enough to border on fantastical. Take, for instance, quantum physics, robotics, artificial intelligence, intergalactic travel, cryogenics, time travel, extraterrestrial life, mutations, to name just a few. Storytellers just love to lower their hands into this Bucket of Nerd, pick up one or two of these concepts and string together a script. The Terminator series, for instance, picked up a handful: robotics, AI and time travel. Again, luckily for them (and thereby us), not too many physicists make good movie critics.
Of the few potential topics mentioned above, time travel has proven to be a timeless concept (get it?), one that plays fast and loose with our minds just as much as it does with science, and it just happens to be an all-time favourite of film makers and viewers alike. After all, who amongst us hasn’t said the words: “Man, if only I could go back in time and do things over…”
So that’s the topic for today: movies of the 21st century wherein someone did in fact go back in time, or something to that effect. And there’s a special mention at the end to rid this article of bad omens.
SPOILER ALERT: Sometimes I get carried away and reveal stuff that I shouldn’t, but that’s my way of getting back at everyone for GoT spoilers and I am not even sorry.
Deja Vu (2006)
A crime takes place and you catch the criminal, that’s mainstream. You catch the criminal before the crime takes place, that’s intelligent. Now how about you try to catch the criminal before the crime takes place, even though the crime has already taken place, and you’ve earned a one-way ticket to this list, just as Deja Vu has. If you can shut up the rebellious inner nerd who insistently questions the problem of causal loops and molecular disintegration of ATF agent Doug Carlin (played by Denzel Washington), there’s much else to enjoy. Somewhere in the midst of unforgettable action and an awe-inducing split-time car-chase, director Tony Scott managed to sneak in the cutest love story between Denzel and a mortally threatened Paula Patton. Makes for an amazing watch.
Source Code (2011)
It would be preposterous of me to call what happens in this movie ‘time travel’, but that might just be the more plausible, might I say less outrageous, explanation. This story seems to have taken the phrase “going down the memory lane” quite literally and gotten Jake Gyllenhaal (the Prince of Persia from my previous post) on board to take up this exhausting exercise. However, with remarkable conviction he relives someone else’s past to try and catch a terrorist who’s supposedly planning to blow up Chicago, shortly after he’s blown up a train. I feel like I stopped making sense two sentences ago, and yet the story dashes forward in time and complexity, exploring high minded implications of this journey to the virtual past.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
To start with, the movie has this jaw-dropping shot of Tom Cruise trapped in Lex Luthor’s body.
tomorrow28f 2 web - 21st Century Films that Played Fast and Loose with Time – And Nailed It
An adaptation of Japanese sci-fi novel All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow starts off at a time when an alien invasion threatens the existence of Earth and as always, the responsibility of saving the world lies squarely on an American shoulder. Much like respawning at a save-game checkpoint in Call of Duty, the story requires Lt. Col. William Cage, played by Tom Cruise, to relive a battle several times, the stats being reset every time he gets killed. How this happens is quite conveniently sidestepped as an “alien” concept, so you need not bother with the specifics.
Now I might call several of its scenes unforgettable but that’s probably because you get to see them 6 times in the movie before the interval brings you back to reality. The movie has received some critical acclaim and that might be for good reason, but if you have somehow managed to stumble upon this article, gotten this far and are actually planning on watching the names on this list, I have two things to say: a) don’t make this one your priority, and b) thanks for being a fan of my work; you might be the only one. Movie is available to watch online on iTunes
Interstellar (2014)
In the second half of 2014, space travel got Nolanised, when the man himself decided to touch, tear and crease the fabric of space-time. And when he did, he went all the way, using every concept that haunts astrophysicists on a daily basis, as if to mock and venerate them in a single stroke: black holes, relativity of time, Einsteinian interpretation of gravity and other stuff I can’t name. Add Matthew McConaughey’s southern drawl to that equation and you have a movie that, like Inception before it, you’ll just have to watch thrice to fully comprehend. Not that one should mind. True to his nature, though, he branded the whole geekiness with a deep, human emotion that floats gracefully on Hans Zimmer’s background score. Goosebumps! Movie is available to watch on YouTube, iTunes and Google Play
Predestination (2015)
Hollywood’s censorship board had to invent a whole new rating to release this movie: M. Mindfuck. As a Temporal Agent, Ethan Hawkes’ job description entails going back in time to try and stop future criminals from committing their crimes. It is one of these pursuits where reality gets muddled up and loops back onto itself to reveal a story that is so superbly written, and even better told, that it will leave you breathless. It ends on a note that reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s famous line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”
While I don’t want to oversell this one, I personally feel this was the most underrated movie of 2015, if not of the whole decade. When you do watch it, prepare to not blink for two hours.
Special Mention: Back to the Future (1985)
Just like I promised.
Why is this here, you ask? Because not featuring the adventures of Marty McFly who flies back and forth in time aided by his “little” eccentric friend Doc would be an offense of criminal proportions. A time travel movie way ahead of its time, this is a mix of sci-fi, adventure, thrill and comedy. You’ll never see any credible “top time-travel movies” list that doesn’t feature Back to the Future. Including this one!
Must take a time-out now! Available to watch online on Google Play and iTunes
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