Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Classic Film: Back to the Future


"This is heavy" - Marty McFly

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
Runtime: 116 minutes

Very few films stand the test of time, and even fewer of those are about having a crush on your own mother. Weirdly enough, Back to the Future pulls this off; regarded as a 80's classic that is as good today as it was upon its release 30 years ago, Back to the Future isn't just an all-round fantastic film - it's a bonafide icon of cinema. 

This is a film that holds a very special place in my heart. I'm not sure why; I don't remember the first time I sat down to watch it, and I certainly don't remember how I felt afterward. And yet, over time, I found myself revisiting the film over and over, rediscovering new details and gently coming to the realisation that this might just be one of my favourite films ever.

For those of you who don't know, Back to the Future is about a teenage guy, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) who, with the help of his zany scientist friend Dr. Emmet Brown and his DeLorean time machine, is inadvertently sent back in time 30 years to 1955. Without a way to return home, Marty must gain the trust of the younger Doc Brown so that they can conviece a plan that'll send him, you guessed it, back to the future.

However, things go awry when Marty accidentally bumps into his future parents, Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and George (Crispin Glover), and sets in motion a chain of events that prevent them from ever becoming a couple and conceiving him and his two siblings.

With time running out before he is erased from existence completely, Marty must simultaneously rekindle his parent's courtship, learn how to get the DeLorean working again, as well as ensure he doesn't cause any more shifts in time! With so much going on, it's a film that never loses steam - and the last 30 minutes are pretty much perfect. The time travel stuff is kept relatively simple (unlike the sequels) and it all comes together for a soaring crescendo that is one of my favourite scenes of all time.

After ensuring his parents do indeed get together at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, Marty races back into town just in time to catch the lightning strike he needs to power up the Flux Capacitor, and rocket him and the DeLorean back to 1985. It's not that simple though - with a storm rolling in and the Doc rushing to assemble the wire to channel the lightning, it's a nail-biting scene that I wouldn't change a single frame of. When Doc Brown finally gets the cord joined together and Marty disappears into thin air, leaving behind just a trail of fiery tyre treads, the whole scene goes from chaos to silence, and we witness this wonderful moment where Christopher Lloyd runs across the street cheering. So simple, and yet so powerful.

I think that's what it boils down to - this film's ability to make you happy. Just try to suppress a smile when The Power of Love kicks in at the beginning, or when Alan Silvestri's iconic score soars during the finale. It's inspiring stuff that never fails to make me grin like a total idiot.

The charm extends beyond the dynamic duo of the Doc and Marty though; the supporting cast are all excellent, with Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover playing two adorably dorky and lovelorn teens who, to the frustration of Marty, are just as irresponsible and stupid as he is. It's a fantastic premise - what if you could meet the teenage versions of your parents? - that just gets skewed in ways you could never imagine happening in a film today. Marty's mum, Lorraine, unknowingly falls head over heels for her future son and the film makes the most of this cringe humour.

Funny, heartfelt, suspenseful, thrilling; every ingredient for cinema perfection has been poured into Back to the Future, and it remains brilliant to this day. If you haven't seen it, you're doing yourself a disservice. 

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