X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT
**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**
Well, this was fun. Having enjoyed the X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) movie immensely I was looking forward to this one despite Bryan Singer’s mildly wonky recent directorial releases VALKYRIE (2008) and the okay Jack and the Beanstalk CGI-fest JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013). Of course, Singer’s technical ability is second-to-none and his skill in creating a memorable action set-piece has never been in question but I found his recent films uninvolving and strangely undramatic; especially Valkyrie. But perhaps that was because we knew the mission to kill Hitler was doomed thus suspense was lacking in that particular narrative.
Anyway, no such concerns here with this sparkling time-travel, past-and-present fusion of historical and future events story. I was genuinely gripped from the brilliant opening scene which establishes a set of all-conquering villainous machines called The Sentinels which — in the future — have taken over the earth and are wiping out both mutants and humans alike. Cue Wolverine being sent back in time by Magneto and Professor X to convince the two respective younger versions of them to change the events which caused the Sentinels to rise to power.
If it seems a bit Terminatoresque it’s because it is completely the same story with some Back to the Future nods thrown in too. But Simon Kinberg’s screenplay (from Matthew Vaughan/Jane Goldman’s story in turn inspired by 1981 Uncanny X-Men comic book narrative by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) wears it’s influences proudly and gets us into the story so quickly that the time travel element becomes more structural rather than thematic. For me, Hollywood blockbusters are like rollercoasters and I’m looking for a thrill ride. From the get-go this ride was awesome and just did not stop!
One may even describe the structure as like Citizen Kane meets Magnificent Seven as our conduit Wolverine must assemble his team that include the now desperate junkie figure of Xavier (James McAvoy) and his faithful pet/assistant Beast/Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). Xavier has essentially given up and Wolverine must persuade him to join the cause thus giving Jackman a chance to show his “sensitive” and persuasive side before unleashing those bulging muscles on his foes once again. I wanted a bit more time with X the Junkie because McAvoy is a likeable and commanding actor as shown by his recent stirring performance as good, bad, mad and ugly cop Bruce Robertson in disturbing black comedy Filth (2013). But to no avail as we then rapidly move onto the getting Magneto (the always brilliant Michael Fassbender) into the plot.
This is where the film goes all Mission Impossible as Magneto is being held a mile underground at the Pentagon penitentiary. Enter my favourite character of the whole film Quicksilver (Eric Peters) as his speedy skills are used brilliantly in the quest to set Magneto free. The rescue scene gives rise to probably the best set-piece I’ve seen in the cinema all year and like the Captain America fight scene in the lift it is full of surprises and humour. The use of slow motion, special effects, sight jokes, music by Jim Croce etc. had my heart in my mouth and adrenalin rushing through my body – although that could have been the vat of coffee I drank that day. Nonetheless this sequence typifies why I go to the cinema and that is for maximum big screen impact in moments like this. Shame on you if you watched this on illegal download via your laptop. Dear filmmakers – thank you! Please take a bow!!
With the team assembled they must then take down the ever gorgeous Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) who is waging a one-mutant campaign against unscrupulous arms dealer, mutant-hater, and wonderfully named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). As typified by Mystique’s arc the whole film gives some great little moments of depth and motivation to the characters without losing pace in the plot and action overall. In fact, it’s perfect storm of a movie with plot, action, effects and so many fine actors at the height of their star working perfectly with established cast members of the older X-Men films such as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
This is grandstand genre filmmaking at its’ finest taking all the best elements from the previous films and throwing them into a potent and heady cinematic mix. I love time-travel narratives as well as the melding of actual historical events and figures such as the appearance of President Nixon and references to the Kennedy assassination. The final set-piece at the White House brings all the plots and subplots together in an outstanding action-packed denouement. For sheer entertainment value and for all X-Men and comic-book fans this is definitely recommended. So watch this on a big screen as that’s what it deserves. I recommend the Vue Cinema Westfield Screen 6 or Wimbledon Odeon Screen 4.
This is an 8/10 movie but 9/10 on the big screen!!