by Cormac O
In light of The 1916 Rising Centenary I began thinking about rebellions and their depictions in cinema. The difficulty with portraying historical events on the big screen is that film in one way or another becomes limited. The filmmakers are restrained by the truth and unless they can figure out an entertaining or unique way of telling that truth they are in danger of boring the audience. On the other hand, they are unable to steer too far away from the truth as they are obliged to show respect and certain objectives when it comes to historical documents. People will always remember history from a different POV and within the confines of non-fiction filmmaking it can prove too tricky to please everyone. And even though films about true historical events can informative, educational and even emotionally engaging, the element of originality or surprise is absent. With this in mind I began racking my brains in order to come up with a Top 5 Films list that deal with rebellion in the fictional realm. No particular order, just off the top of my head, what I miss?
1) The Matrix (1999, Wachowski’s)
What’s more revolutionary then freeing your mind? The fantastic mythology employed by the Wachowski Brothers in The Matrix would soon be destroyed by its terrible sequels. Influenced by philosophies and ideas ranging from Immanuel Kant to Philip K. Dick, the premise for The Matrix is truly a mind-blower. However, it’s not only the philosophical, mythological and religious aspects that make this a great film, but also the technical and visual style that conveyed that Y2K-millenial, cyberpunk tone. The unique visual effects and break-neck speed kung-fu choreography placed all of the directors’ cinematic tastes on display. The Matrix is first on this list because before you’re able to free others you must first free your mind and the Wachowski’s left us all so open minded our brains leaked out.
2) Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, Wyatt)
It’s risky business rebooting a classic. You wanna scream out that they’re all rubbish and that Hollywood has run out of original ideas and is now gone all green recycling the shit out of everything. However, the truth of the matter is that it all depends. Sometimes it depends on the script, sometimes it depends on the director and sometimes it just comes down to sheer timing. Less we forget that The Thing (1982) and Scarface (1983) were both respectively remade from Howard Hawk classics? And in my opinion surpassed the originals. The premise for Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was more or less based on Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and is simply one of the best remakes/reboots ever made. The motion capture performance by Andy Serkis, the leader in his field, excels the emotional engagement of the movie to Kleenexing point. The visual effects aren’t even that great, but expressions and mannerisms captured from the performers make you forget entirely about that. In terms of rebellion, there’s a moment of tension between Serkis’ Caesar and fantasy bad-boy Draco Malfoy that results in one of the best cinema moments this decade. Pound for pound, Rise is the best feature of the entire franchise. It’s mythology for the cause of the rise of the apes is brilliant and perfectly executed, delivering an emotional and enthralling roller-coaster throughout.
3) Fight Club (1999, Fincher)
The turn of the century’s A Clockwork Orange. A violent, antagonising, social satire that urged men to rebel against consumerism. David Fincher’s visceral Fight Club is a coming of age flick, but with a sharp edged bite to it. The film is punk in essence. The opening credits accompanied by the raw Dust Brother’s electronic soundtrack reaches out from the screen and backhand slaps you across the face. The film screams “WAKE UP!” to a generation that fetishizes over material goods, a generation of men who have more vanity than grit, who remain docile and content with consumerism regurgitation. The movie frightened a lot of people when released, who focused more on the “fight club” aspect, taking it for face value. The “fight club” is used as a metaphor for a generation of men wanting to feel something, anything within a society that had become numb. The third act of the film displays scenes of revolt against capitalism and also contains echoes of rebellion cons such a dictatorship and fascism. Fight Club was extremely innovative in terms of technology, and similar to The Matrix it conveyed that millienial greenish filter. We need more films like Fight Club now and again to give us a good smack in the face. We need to be challenged, antagonised, scared by movies. We need to feel.
4) Blade Runner (1982, Scott)
Ridely Scott’s cult film, Blade Runner, means a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s science fiction, it’s film noir, it’s action, but underneath all the genre cross-dressing, at its heart, Blade Runner is a tale of revolt. Replicants with artificial intelligence, installed memories, fighting for their freedom. Its original cinema release saw it slip through the cracks at the box office. It was up against hard sci-fi competition such as E.T., The Thing, and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and its ambiguous subject matter probably didn’t entice audiences. The film was more or less forgotten before multiple cuts and DVD releases caught the attention of cinephiles everywhere, who reevaluated it and labeled it a masterpiece. It’s a movie that you get immersed in. The world Scott and his production team created is so visually sumptuous that you can’t help but succumb to its style. The neo-noir tone of the film accompanied by Vangelis’ romantic score, melting saxophones into deep synthesizers, are so realised, so original that regardless if you are a fan of Blade Runner or not, you cannot deny its visionary appetite.
5) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Miller)
For a proper, no holds barred, cinematic experience, nothing last year could compare to George Miller’s dystopian demolition. Thirty years had passed since the Thunderdome and Miller’s vision and style remains in tact, while adapting to a new kind of film industry. The saturation of CGI within big action blockbusters had brainwashed audiences for so long that they didn’t know what they were missing. The action genre fallen into a dystopian age itself. Green screens and hack directors roamed through the vast wasteland of Hollywood, regurgitating recyclable garbage for the docile masses. Miller returned with something tangible, relentless and stunning. The film stands out from the previous three installments for having strong female characters, led by Furiosa (Charlize Theron). What begins as an escape, eventually becomes a rebellious coup as the protagonists rise up against Immortan Joe. Sure, film is subjective and time will show just how much shelf life Mad Max: Fury Road really has. But to have watched it on the big screen for the first time evoked a spine tingling sensation. It wasn’t just another movie, it was an event, a spectacle, giving audiences a high. The comedown was horrific.