Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Magic Carpet Ride

At a point just about half-way through Go, a beat-up Ford roars out of a parkade onto the main drag of Las Vegas, just as Steppenwolf bursts into

Well, you don't know what
We can find
Why don't you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride


It's a pivotal moment in the film, and I can't help but salute the film-makers for accomplishing it. Suddenly this teen melodrama turns into an action movie, only it's not REALLY an action movie because, come on, Magic Carpet Ride? That's not an action movie sound cue.

It's one of my favourite sound cues of all time. It's an "Awwww yeah," moment, where everyone in the audience grins and nods, recognizing not just the song but the emotion it's telling us to feel. Our characters aren't in danger. Nothing too terrible is going to happen here. The big tension isn't "Will they survive?" -- it's "How is this all going to work out to achieve the happy ending I know perfectly well is on its way?"

Go lives in the same cinematic neighborhood as Snatch and all those other modern melodramas of the type invented by Quentin Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs. But where Dogs creates tension out of real suffering and danger, Go constructs all its tension on top of a froth of silliness and social awkwardness.

The Vegas sequence, with thugs and car chases and flying bullets, would seem out of place and confusing to the audience were the director not so careful to make sure everything is clear. And that sound cue accomplishes the task admirably.

There's a theory (that Steph and I made up) that every movie contains somewhere (usually in the third quarter of the picture) a statement that baldly declaims the key to the film. In Reservoir Dogs this comes when the undercover cop is in the diner with his partner, describing the bank robbers, and the partner stops him and says, "Hey, these are the bad guys. They're not your friends. Don't ever forget that." That's the statement of the film -- good guys and bad guys can't be friends.

Reservoir Dogs as a platonic Romeo and Juliet. Hm.

In Go, which doesn't have any sort of a point to make and isn't more than an inch and a half deep, that moment is maybe the explosion onto the Vegas strip to the thundering guitar of Steppenwolf.

You don't know what you'll find, but you might as well come along on this magic carpet ride. That's all Go is: a ride through an exotic, exhilarating landscape, not going anywhere, just going. Not changing or growing or learning or anything like that. Just going.

In the end, the character who arguably undergoes the nearest thing to a transformation, poor forgotten Mannie, grins and asks, "What are we doing for New Years?"

Nothing's changed, and we're just going to keep on keeping on. Why wouldn't we? The ride is so much fun.