Sunday, 9 December 2012

Forrest Gump (1994)

Yesterday was quite a day. I caught one of the best episodes of one of the best TV shows ever made, The Simpsons, took home this year's Christmas tree and watched a cracking episode of Pointless before I turned over to find that I had missed a considerable lump of Back To The Future, just finding Doc Brown dangling by a wire in front of the Hill Valley town hall clock during the lightning storm. So as you can tell, a day of extremes.

But as if my parents knew I needed a bit of cheering up, we ordered a Chinese and picked up Charlotta, a Swedish girl I met when she came to our school on exchange, to have it with us. She may not have enjoyed her chow mein, but she pretended to, and we went through to the front room once all the prawn crackers were out of the bowl and into our mouths. There's a bit of a tradition that I'll put on a good film to watch when she comes round, often on Netflix, but Sky One tossed us a blinder yesterday with Robert Zemeckis' other masterpiece, Forrest Gump.

This is one of the few films I already have on DVD, and one of the even fewer that I actually bought myself. This by no means means I should ignore it when it's on TV. No opportunity to watch it should be passed. We even missed the first ten minutes, and thus the line about the box of chocolates. As if that matters.

Forrest Gump is a true epic in every sense of the word. The scale of it is staggering (a fleet of helicopters flying past an army camp in Vietnam, a packed anti-war protest in front of the Washington Monument), the scope is incredible (covering just about every major American event and cultural shift from the end of the Second World War to the early eighties), and there is not a shoddy performance from anyone anywhere. It is both one of the funniest and most heart-wrenching films ever made, as Forrest watches his Lieutenant struggle his way through life wishing he was dead and his girl, Jenny, fall from innocence quite spectacularly.

Gary Sinise and Robin Wright's performances are particularly of note, as well as, of course, Tom Hanks in the lead role. It is difficult to imagine a Gump not played by Hanks, with his now iconic Southern drawl and deeply emotional acting, especially in the outstanding scene taking place underneath a tree towards the end of the film. The script is one of the best, covering such an enormous number of issues whilst including some quite brilliant lines ("I'm sorry I had to fight in the middle of your Black Panther par-tay"), and all with the casualness of a man retelling his story at a bus stop.

Zemeckis uses his (in)famously frequent special effects for realism rather than for spectacle here, putting Gump in the background of various newsreels throughout history quite convincingly with a subtleness many of today's CGI-mad directors could take note of. To take on a film of this scale must have been quite a challenge, but Zemeckis pulled it off in spectacular style, taking the Academy Award for Best Director as his reward.

Forrest Gump is a true achievement among films, and I'd be quite happy for it to sum up all that's remarkable about cinema. It is near flawless in almost every aspect, with the acting, special effects, direction, script and plot all among the greatest. I'm very glad to have stumbled across it, albeit 10 minutes late.

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