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Friday, 22 August 2008

Slipstream, 2007 - Movie Review

Director: Anthony Hopkins
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Christian Slater, Monica Garcia
Running Time: 96 minutes
Score: 7 / 10

This review by Andy D.

This movie will no doubt draw a line in the sand for movie watchers. Many will not cross that line and claim it is a jumbled mess, a confusing brew of hectically edited scenes in a deliberately confusing screen play, lacking direction, clear story line or conclusion. These people might be lacking in empathy for the older generations and will probably prefer “movies on a plate “ ™ with hand-holding narratives in nice step-by step chewable plastic scripts. Others will take this film to heart and immerse themselves in what Anthony Hopkins wants us to experience which is to go along with Felix for the ride into dementia and experience with him the gradual loss of his mental faculties in a colourful and sometimes explosive storm in a mental tea cup.

Beware of the spoilers lurking within this review. If you’re interested in giving this movie a chance on the back of my opening paragraph, then just do it! And do it with open arms for this is a very brave debut by Hopkins as writer/director. I would guess that he is tackling a topic that is probably very important to him. If you’ve read poor reviews of this movie and you’re not totally sold on it and yet, you are still curious, then please have a read of my take on this film. I will try and describe what I liked about it.

Slipstream explores the lucid dream like state of a mind gripped by the effects of early dementia which I suspect is probably Alzheimer’s Disease. Our protagonist, Felix struggles in the last days of his career to make sense of the script he is working on. He struggles to comprehend the events of reality around him as his dementia blurs his fictional world with his real world. Anthony Hopkins drags us into Felix’s mind as he struggles with many of the classic dementia problems including the break down of attentiveness, the break down of abstract thinking, an onset of total apathy, the loss of recognition of perceptions, and finally, delusional symptoms. Near the end we experience the start of the breakdown of motor skills and coordination as Felix stumbles around in the hard shoulder of a busy highway.

Hopkins demonstrates the confusion experienced by Felix from a mainly internal point of view but now and again we see it from an external point of view too. The most memorable example of this is probably the traffic shooting incident… Felix is impassive and watches numbly as though he is experiencing a scene from a movie being played out in front of him as a road rage incident degenerates into a shooting tragedy. He is numb to its reality even when a shot is fired directly towards him by the road rage psycho. The shot narrowly misses Felix and leaves a bullet hole in the windscreen. At the time we wonder whether the fracas actually happened or was it in Felix’s mind, yet the persistence of the bullet hole throughout the rest of the movie tells us it was real. A later scene showing the shooting event on TV reinforces this to us, that it really did happen and that Felix had almost been killed that day. Felix’s dementia it seems almost cost him his life early on in this movie. It is almost certainly a deliberate direct repeat of the theme of this shooting scene that is used at the conclusion of the movie where Felix meets his final fate. Indeed it’s almost the exact same location on the highway and once again it is his dementia which places him in harms way.

There are constant ripples of reoccurring elements in the movie reminiscent of the ripples on the surface of a pond reflecting back on themselves from the edges. The SUV driven by the bar tender in which he gets shot by the fictional Christian Slater Villain is the same SUV that hits Felix at the very end of the movie. In this scene the bar tender is no longer the driver of the SUV but he is the highway cop along with Christian Slater as his side kick who had pulled Felix over just before Felix staggers onto the busy highway lane in front of the SUV. The first meeting of this SUV, in which the bar tender is shot in the head by Christian Slater, appears to be part of Felix’s film and we get then a familiar vibe to the shooting incident on the highway, which might go to explain Felix’s inaction at that time.

The deliberately confused blurring of fiction-dream with reality are smoothly transitioned and the two states are not delineated in any way. We aren’t given any clues like David Lynches red curtains or ‘zoom through holes’ to when we’re moving from reality into dream world or back again. This is the reality of dementia, there are no signals or boundaries and yes, it must be very confusing…. confusing to the point of mental breakdown as the disease takes more of the mind. We are constantly asking who is real and who isn’t in the film and what roles do people really play. This is what Felix is mainly struggling with. We get hints during a scene where Felix is dreaming of his fictional characters as though they live inside his computer, staring out at him. But alongside his fictional characters in this dream he places his very real Producer. His producer is ‘real’ in Felix’s reality that is, but he acts in quite a surreal way. He is barely in touch with reality himself. This, I take it, is a jab at some real producers that Anthony Hopkins has had to deal with over the years but also the surrealness of the character works to dislodge Felix’s mental state even further.

This film moved me. I knew what to expect with its style so I didn’t try and follow it like I tried very hard to follow Inland Empire (somewhat unsuccessfully I might add!). I let it wash over me in a very passive way and I think this is the approach that Anthony Hopkins would want us to watch it. He wants us to experience ourselves what it is like to suffer from senile dementia. In a way he is preparing us for what is very likely to happen to many of us as we age into our twilight years. How many of us have suffered the pain of watching loved ones lose their minds due to Alzheimer’s Disease? Certainly, at least, all of us have seen or will see our parents age into frail OAPs, and, eventually they will be gone forever. Slipstream offers us a glimpse of what it is like on the other side of the degenerating mind. It offers us an idea of what we will likely become ourselves and helps us to understand those of us in our society who are already living in a world of senile dementia.

7/10 A brave debut



Anonymous said...

Nice review. Not heard of this one before but think I'll check it out. The Fountain review was also good but thought that was a baaaad movie.

Anonymous said...

Cheers Super Dave. I forgot to mention, Hopkins also composed all the original music and I was well impressed with that too. The whole soundtrack was excellent. If you read IMDB boards you'd think this film was a steaming pile of nonsense but nothing could be further than the truth.