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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SLIPSTREAM (2005) -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: I wrote this review back when I loved recapping the plots to movies in detail,  so there are a lot of spoilers here.  This was first posted at in 2005 or so.)

There are plenty of time-travel stories about people going back hundreds, even thousands of years into the past.  But ten minutes?  If you think about it, this could come in quite handy in a wide range of day-to-day situations. 

You could win arguments, say just the right things to people you want to impress, avoid a variety of mishaps, missteps, and mistakes, or -- as Stuart Conway, inventor of The Slipstream Device, seems to have noticed -- you could cash the same paycheck over and over.

Stuart (Sean Astin) doesn't seem like a particularly dishonest person, but as SLIPSTREAM (2005) begins, we find that the beyond-top-secret government research agency that this beyond-intelligent-physicist is working for has cut the funding on his pet project and stuck him in a back room out of everyone's way. 

So, well, he's feeling a bit underappreciated lately, and decides to prove the validity of his theories on time travel by using his new invention, a "poly-dimensional translocation device" (which looks a lot like a cell phone) to cash his latest paycheck as many times as he wants to. 

So there he is, standing at the teller's window at the bank, trying in his worst beyond-super-geek way to sweet-talk the bank clerk he has a crush on, when a particular observation he makes about the highly distracting properties of her low-cut blouse prompts her to pick up the decaf, non-fat, soy concoction she's been sipping and hurl it right at his face. 

Reflexively, he whips out his Slipstream Device and pushes a button.  The liquid slows to a snail's pace and then freezes in mid-air.  Then it begins to retrace its path back into her cup.  Time suddenly zips backward ten minutes -- and their encounter is now at its starting point again.  Cool! he thinks giddily.  While she's counting out my money again, I'll have another chance to shower her with suave witticisms!

Suddenly the doors to the bank fly open and in bursts a band of armed bank robbers, a motley assortment of scruffy, lower-class Brits led by Winston Briggs (Vinnie Jones) and his punky fiancee of twelve years, Gillian (Victoria Bartlett), who are extreme movie fans and fancy themselves as either Bonnie and Clyde or Butch and Sundance according to the situation.  And the situation gets a lot tenser when two FBI agents who have been keeping Stuart under surveillance whip out their guns. 

At first it's a standoff, but in no time there's a heap o' lead flying around, and one of the slugs catches Stuart right in the chest.  The robbers take the money and run.  Agent Sarah Tanner (Ivana Milicevic, CASINO ROYALE) rushes to Stuart's aid.  He tells her to pick up the device and press the button, which she does. 

In a flash, it's ten minutes earlier and Sarah is back standing with her partner Jake (Kevin Otto) before the robbery.  Since she was holding the device when it was activated, she is aware of the time-jump and is understandably flabbergasted.  She looks at Stuart, then at the clock, and realizes that a bank robbery is about to occur.

Or reoccur, that is.  This time there's even more shooting, and things go even more wrong.  Jake runs outside in pursuit of the fleeing bank robbers, and is shot dead as they escape.  Sarah is stricken with grief because she's in love with Jake -- they've even been perusing the classifieds for a nice house to move into together -- and it dawns on her that if Stuart is able to turn back the clock ten minutes, he can save Jake's life. 

One problem, though -- the bank robbers have The Slipstream Device!  And if she and Stuart don't get it back within ten minutes, they won't be able to go back in time far enough to save Jake!

And that's just the start of it!  (Pardon me while I catch my breath.)  Briggs and his gang have a freeway crack-up in their van and end up taking a busload of people hostage.  Sarah and Stuart try to get on the bus, but Briggs shoots Stuart -- again.  So Sarah has to tell him about the device in order to be able to use it to save Stuart.  Briggs thinks this would be a great way to rob the same bank over and over.  When the chopper he's demanded arrives, he and Gillian rig the bus to explode and take off with their gang and Stuart in tow. 

Fast-forward a bit (we can do that, even if Stuart can't) and we find Briggs and Stuart on an airplane headed out of the country.  Sarah has managed to board the same plane.  She gets The Slipstream Device away from Briggs, but it is broken in the struggle.  Briggs would rather die than be caught, so he shoots out a window, and the sudden decompression causes the plane to go into a dive. 

The pilots try their best to pull out, but there's a really big mountain in their windscreen, and it's getting bigger and bigger.  To make things worse, a stewardess whacks Briggs over the head with a fire extinguisher while he's pointing his gun at Sarah, causing him to shoot her at point blank range.  Sarah goes down, dead.  The plane hits the mountain.

As you can see, a lot happens in this movie, and most of it is pretty entertaining.  It's a bit derivative at times -- the bank sequence reminded me a lot of an old OUTER LIMITS episode with Barry Morse, Grace Lee Whitney, and Carroll O'Connor called "Controlled Experiment", in which a woman shoots her husband in a fit of jealousy and a Martian who has come to Earth to study the act of murder uses a device to replay the event backwards, forwards, in slow-motion, etc., and the climax owes a bit to 1964's THE TIME TRAVELERS, although I have no idea whether or not the filmmakers have seen it. 

But there's also a great deal of inventiveness going on here.  David van Eyssen throws everything but the kitchen sink into his directing style at times, especially in the bank shoot-outs that get wilder and more dizzyingly cinematic (though a bit overdone) with every ten-minute replay.  The final moments aboard the airplane are nice -- time stands still, or is slowed down and extended so that we're able to appreciate the effects that certain actions or events have on the characters at crucial instances, and then images begin to flash by and become almost subliminal impressions rushing toward the inevitable conclusion. 

The actors are all very good in their roles, so much so that you even begin to care about the bad guys (Vinnie Jones and Victoria Bartlett make a lovely couple).  Sean Astin and Ivana Milicevic are appealing leads.  The musical score by Rob Lord is outstanding. 

This isn't a great film by any means, but it's definitely a thought-provoking, action-packed good time.  Ten minutes after it was over, I pressed the button on my poly-dimensional translocation device (okay, my DVD player) and watched it again.

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