Things to Come ★★★★

Sometimes, when I watch an old film like Things To Come, I wonder if I'm being really patronising with my thoughts towards some aspects of it. I even felt patronising calling it an "old film" just then.

By this I mean that I looked at so many things in Things To Come with such utter amazement, always partnering this amazement with thoughts like, "Cor, how could they do that back then? Surely that was impossible! They didn't even have computers back then!" I can't help it. Maybe the makers could have regarded this as a complement to their ingenuity, though, I don't know.

Of course, they got by, on this occasion, on using what they had available and astonishing levels of creativity and hard work. It really is an astonishing film, too. It's easy to just cite the latter scenes of the film and its vast underground cities when talking this way, but the earlier war scenes are extraordinary in their own right. The sheer scale and vastness of the film is almost impossible to fathom over three-quarters of a century after it was made.

That vision, inevitably, does overwhelm the plot at times, proving that big budget movies with breathtaking effects have perhaps always been prone to that and that it's not really a new thing at all. Some creaky and preachy dialogue hardly helps at times but there is a fascinating idea in here about humanity being doomed to make the same mistakes when it thinks it is trying its hardest to avoid them.

There is even a proto-zombie story going on here as the 'enemy' attack Everytown with a virus that turns people into sufferers of the 'Wandering Sickness' - who are then shot on sight to prevent the disease from spreading.

The only performer here who does not get swallowed up by the sheer scope of it all is Ralph Richardson as The Boss, a sort of tribal chief who takes charge of Everytown as the massive war that breaks out in 1940 starts to peter out. His performance is memorable - as is the film as a whole.

I'm still not entirely sure whether Things To Come is a truly great film. It is very good, certainly. But it absolutely was a truly amazing achievement and sometimes, very occasionally, films deserve to be seen just off the back of that fact alone.

Steve G liked this review