Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back to the Future

1985, US, directed by Robert Zemeckis

There's no point in pretending to be objective about Back to the Future: I was hooked from the opening credits in 1985, and the film remains, to me, as fresh as it was more than 20 years ago; it's one of the best pop films of the 1980's, and underlines the fact that a Hollywood entertainment can be made with care, craftsmanship and intelligence.

Director Robert Zemeckis sets up the story with remarkable economy, packing a tremendous amount of information into the early scenes without ever allowing the action to seem cluttered. He and script-writer Bob Gale then allow themselves full rein to have fun with the consequences of sending their lead character back to the 1950's; while virtually no time-travel tale stands up to microscopic scrutiny, they tease out the implications of the journey with some care, and have a great eye for the little details that separate the decades. The performances, though, are what truly breathe life into the film. It's hard to believe that Michael J. Fox was simultaneously shooting episodes of the sitcom Family Ties given the energy he pours into his portrayal of Marty McFly, while he is given able support by Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover, who delivers one of the most enjoyably odd performances that you'll see in a mainstream feature. Threaded through the film, there's a hint of social commentary, most especially about the nefarious effects of the television on the American family, but there are also a few subtle pointers that the American economy of the 1980's isn't quite as balmy as its 1950's counterpart, however hard President Reagan (the butt of more than one joke) might have tried to sell that illusion.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States