Saturday 15 January 2011

Film: The Truman Show (1998)

Continuing with my efforts to catch up with worthwhile SFF films, I've finally seen The Truman Show. The plot must be well enough known by now, although I must confess I did wish whilst watching it that I hadn't had any advance notice of the basic premise, as it would have been fun discovering that for myself as the film developed. So if you really have no idea what it's about, my advice is: watch the film (it's terrific), but read no further.

The plot is mixture of a soap opera and reality TV show on the surface, but underneath is a paranoid conspiracy theory made real. Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives an apparently normal, happily married (to Laura Linney) life in an idyllic little American town set on a small island. The one quirk is that, following a childhood accident in which his father was drowned, Truman is so terrified of water that he can't even drive over it on a bridge; so he has never left the island. Despite this, he has a fantasy of travelling to Fiji to follow the girl he really fell in love with (Natascha McElhone) who had vanished abruptly from the island years before.

The problems begin when odd events cause Truman to start to question the nature of the world he lives in. Strange incidents keep occurring, starting with a piece of equipment falling out of a clear sky. I enjoyed the way in which the headline of the next day's local paper always had a logical explanation for the events (in this case, that an aircraft in trouble had shed some equipment over the island). Despite such cover-ups, Truman gradually becomes suspicious, and feels that he is being spied on and set up.

The truth is far worse than that; for the entire island is a movie set, and everyone on it except himself is an actor. Broadcast around the world from thousands of cameras concealed around the island, the real-time continuously-running story of Truman's life since birth has been the entire purpose of The Truman Show, and is followed by millions of devoted fans. The film gradually interleaves scenes of Truman's increasing paranoia and desperation to escape the island with those of fans watching the show, plus views of the control-room staff under the direction of Cristof (a chillingly controlling Ed Harris) who constantly choreographs the actors to keep the show on the rails. I was reminded of the old joke: just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean that they're not out to get you!

The climax of the film (and the Show) is dramatic and uplifting, a fitting end to an excellent, original and amusing production. Full marks!


Carl V. Anderson said...

I did not see this one until long after it had made its way to DVD. And I'm not really sure why as I was very interested the moment they started showing trailers.

Great review of a really well done film. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I thought the cast and crew really came together to create a compelling story that was actually palpable despite its wild premise. I was very pleased with the way that it ended, nice emotionally satisfying conclusion.

Bill Garthright said...

Great review, Tony. I'm not a big fan of Jim Carrey - a little of him goes a long way - but he played it straight in this one. And I, too, was impressed with it.