5/ HIGHLANDER. DIR: RUSSELL MULCAHY.
Of course, as is the nature of this list, I’ve named a number of films about people growing up. But how about that person who can’t grow up? Connor MacLeod can never grow old, he can never age, and he will never die. This is his curse. All that he can do is fight the others like himself, until only he remains to receive the Prize. Highlander was somewhat ahead of it’s time when it was released, although now it’s pretty dated.
I had no idea that Highlander had just as much hate as it has love. To sum it up, people hate Highlander because it’s chaotic, over-the-top and very silly. And people love it, because it’s chaotic, over-the-top and very silly! The film was directed by Australian music video director Russell Mulcahy – who has admittedly make more garbage than gold. With Highlander though, he uses his talents for directing music videos to make an action film unlike any other – at least at the time. The cinematography, editing and almost gothic sets come together to make a visually stunning and visceral experience. While Christopher Lambert is a little wooden as MacLeod, his co-stars are certainly enjoying themselves. Sean Connery gives us what could possibly be his silliest performance to date and Clancy Brown gives us a ceaselessly enjoyable performance that mixes psychotic malice and cartoonish silliness in equal degrees.
But what makes Highlander work so well is the MacLeod character. How we follow him through time and see how life eternal has weighed him down. The soundtrack was provided by Queen, and the scene where MacLeod must watch as his beloved wife grows old and dies while Who Wants to Live Forever plays stands out as a definite highlight. These moments make us admire the character, that he still feels human after numerous lifetimes worth of pain. It also makes Lambert’s wooden delivery feel warranted, almost as if it was deliberate.
Highlander was followed by sequels, but I urge you to completely ignore them. They’re not just bad, they are among the worst films ever made. Left as just this, Highlander is a terrific film. People may have differing opinions on how silly it is, but there is no doubt that to have made it any other way would have resulted in a far lesser film.
4/ THE WORLDS END. DIR: EDGAR WRIGHT.
Often seen as the weaker instalment in Edgar Wright’s beloved Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (which I don’t agree with myself, but there we go), The Worlds End follows a man who wishes he was a boy. As a child Gary King was the cool one, the popular one that everybody wanted to be. He had a style of his own, he could drink pint after pint and he could have any girl he wanted. Now he’s just an alcoholic loser who refuses to grow up. While the rest of the plot involves an alien invasion while Gary and his friends get more and more hammered by the pint, there’s this undertone of people trying to relive the ‘glory days’ and fix past mistakes while avoiding growing up.
Simon Pegg plays a very different role as Gary King and is clearly acting like the teenager he used to be (albeit a little overplayed). Nick Frost plays his best friend, who’s life is just as bad as Gary’s. Only he chose to grow up – but lost his will to fight in the process. We learn a lot about Gary, but he doesn’t learn or change as a character, which works of this character. The other friends do change as the film goes on. We learn how life is imperfect for each of them, and they all have a longing to go back to those easier times – they just don’t wish to relive them. I saw this when I had finished college, and the themes of growing up, and not growing up hit me exactly where they needed to. Even today, I still appreciate what was done.
The rest of it is typical Edgar Wright, meaning that it’s one of the best films of the past decade. Watch the opening carefully and you’ll see that Wright has told you every major plot point to come, a trick he also did in Shawn of the Dead. It’s this kind of filmmaking that we all wish to see more of. A filmmaker who puts a lot of effort into making something that looks effortless. The cast is perfect, the writing is perfect. I know that many don’t like the ending, but I always thought that that was perfect too. The world will now have to adapt, to grow up, to this new environment – and everything got wrecked thanks to a pub crawl. What better way was there to end this booze-cruise story?