Time Travel: Movies that Changed the Rules!
Time travel is a subject which has fascinated many for centuries, It is something that is always in debate whether or not it is possible. I have always been interested in this theory and although it does seem far-fetched I would love nothing more than travelling to the past. It is not clear when the thought of time travel was first mentioned but one of the earliest mentions of time travel in literature was ‘Memoirs of the Twentieth Century’ by Samuel Madden which was released in 1733, It is the story of a guardian angel who travels to 1728 with letters from 1997 and 1998. Time travel continued to fascinate in the eighteen hundreds and several novels were released by many different authors but it was the release of ‘The Time Machine’ by H.G. Wells in 1895 which was the most successful and has stood the test of time having been made into movie adaptations in 1960 and 2002. Over the years there has been a countless amount of time travel related novels and almost as many movies. Time travel tends to stick to the same formula most of the time, a scientist invents a time machine and travels to the future or the past or sometimes both. Time Machines have taken many different shapes as well notable mentions being a car, a phone box and of course a spaceship disguised as a police box which is bigger on the inside but what really interests me is Time Travel with a twist, here is my list of three amazing movies which really bend the general rules. Each movie here approaches time travel in a very unique way. they are all very well scripted movies with well thought out intricate twists and turns.
The year is 1999 and John Sullivan is a broken man, he is a police officer but lately his mind has been off the job and his colleagues are starting to notice, It has been almost thirty years to the day since his father, a New York Firefighter died in an almighty blaze in a warehouse. a day that changed John forever. tonight John gets his dad’s old short wave radio out of storage and powers it up in a burst of nostalgia. tonight though there is a rare atmospheric phenomenon in the air and as John speaks into his fathers old radio, the sound waves travel into the phenomenon creating a sound portal sending Johns voice back through time to the last time the phenomenon was present in this location, 1969. what follows is a series of events that never should have come to pass. a father in 1969 speaking to his grown up son thirty years in the future, a son in 1999 desperate to save his father’s life and a chain of events that brings about a series of murders by a serial killer who never should have lived.
Dennis Quaid is excellent as Frank Sullivan. a New York firefighter who loves his family just a little bit more than he loves Elvis Presley. he is dedicated, fierce and always goes above and beyond the call of duty. when he finds out that his survival that never should have been brings about a series of events that caused a serial killer to live he is truly shocked but when he finds out that his wife will someday be one of the victims he is dedicated to put a stop to this at once.
Jim Caviezel is flawless as John Sullivan. a depressed alcoholic that never got over the death of his father. as the timeline alters and Frank does not die, John must then come to terms with a head full of memories from two different timelines, memories of his father’s death and of his survival. As the new memories flood into John’s head he then realises that his father is still dead and that he died ten years ago of lung cancer while his mum was murdered in the sixties. Frank and John become a time spanning detective duo and track down the killer in both timelines. while Frank follows him in 1969, John in 1999 takes the more direct approach by telling him that he knows who he is and what he has done. the movie ends very climactically with the killer attacking both Sullivan men simultaneously in both timelines and in one of my favourites scenes Frank shoots the killer’s hand off in 1969 and John in 1999 see’s the hand of the killer immediately dematerialize. I will not spoil the ending for anybody who has not seen it but I will say that It is a very emotional ending and the original take on time travel here is just superb. I would recommend this movie to anybody, It is one of my favourites.
The Time Travellers Wife. (2009)
The first time Henry met his wife, Claire she had met him many times before. she first met him when she was a little girl but he was much older then. she had met him many times over the years and was well aware of his unusual abnormality. he has a chromosome mutation which causes him to spontaneously time travel. Henry learns a lot about his future from Claire’s past and is less than shocked when they get married as he knew the day would come.
Sometimes Henry would disappear for months at a time and It would be hard for Claire not knowing where he was but sometimes she would know where he was because he was with a younger version of herself and so it was in her memory. during his travels Henry is presented with the information that he will die on New Year Eve, when the day comes he is back with Claire and the daughter that they have had together. Henry does not tell Claire that tonight is the last night of his life. As the clock strikes midnight Henry and Claire kiss to the colossal sound of fireworks and then Henry disappears. Henry wakes up in the woods, there is snow everywhere and Henry spots a deer next to him. Unfortunately Claire’s father and brother are in the very same area hunting deer and do not see Henry and he does not see them but he hears voices, before he has time to investigate he then hears a gunshot, Henry suddenly screams in pain and then disappears. Claire’s father and brother arrive at the spot where Henry was and find nothing but blood covered snow. Henry arrives back home dying from a gunshot wound and Claire is distraught, they both say I Love you and in an instant Henry is gone.
What I love about this film is that it takes time travel and puts a real world spin on it so you have a time traveller with a genetic condition and you have his wife who is often left behind but when Henry dies is it really the end? of course not and he knew it himself. the day he met his wife she had met him many times before, times that she had described to him and times that he later lived himself. his travelling was always erratic and so he would never know when in time he was going to be sometimes it was Claire’s past, sometimes it was their future. Henry knew that the moment he died he would never see her again as a living man but he knew that she would see him. Four years later Claire is playing with her daughter in the meadow and there he stands, Henry. the way he always looked, a living man, not a ghost, nothing like that. Claire knew he must have travelled here many years ago. she did not know if she would see him again and so she tells him that she loves him and always will, they kiss and then he disappears, perhaps for the last time, from her point of view.
Source Code. (2011)
“Source Code is not time travel, it is time reassignment”.
Captain Coulter Stevens is an army pilot serving in Afghanistan, but when he wakes up on a train with no memory of how he got there and seems to be somebody else entirely he thinks that he is hallucinating, but he soon discovers that he is not. . he is certainly not in Afghanistan that is for sure, he is back in the United States, but is he really. if his reflection does not deceive him he is not himself and the girl he seems to be with knows him as Sean. he has assumed the identity of Sean Fentress, a teacher who is on his way to work. eight minutes after he arrives on the train, it explodes and he awakes in an unknown location where he learns he is part of a top secret mission, the Source Code. a new technology has been developed allowing him to be placed into another man’s consciousness during the last eight minutes of his life. this event has already occurred, somebody deliberately blew up the train with explosives and the government want to find out who so that they can catch him to ensure there will be no further incidents. As the event has already happened, Stevens cannot change the event, he can only gather information by interacting with fellow passengers, or so it seems. a number of times he runs out of time and the train explodes but they just keep sending him back to try again. Stevens desperately wants to know why he was chosen for this project and where he is as he has no memory of leaving Afghanistan. his questions are avoided at every turn and he has the feeling that something is amiss, but he is a U.S. army officer and he has sworn to do his duty and his determination pulls through and he discovers the information that was required, but he does it his own way and in doing so he discovers that the Source Code technology was far more advanced than anybody could have imagined.
Jake Gylenhaal is the star of ‘Source Code’ but he is no stranger to time travel movies having also starred in ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’. his performance here is fantastic, he is a man with no answers, looking for answers while being kept outside of the loop whilst in a time loop.
These movies stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to time travel because they took time travel and threw the rule book out the window, they reinvented time travel. they did things their own way and they did it in an inventive and entertaining way.
‘Frequency’ and ‘The Time Travellers Wife’ both look at time travel from a real world perspective where ‘Source Code’ goes down the action movie route.
Time will always fascinate people and is it passes more movies will arrive which test the theories and bend the rules and I look forward to seeing them but I am confident that they will have tough acts to follow.
Words by Gordon Langley