By Michael Sobota

Cineplex Events is hosting what the FLASHBACK FILM FEST at our SilverCity location. Fifteen movies are being screened in one week, drawn from classic Hollywood titles. I saw two of these last weekend.

The Iron Giant (1999)  

Director Brad Bird created a timeless fable about a boy who discovers a giant metal man and must protect and defend the creature from the forces of a deranged American military zealot and, ultimately, the awesome powers of the entire U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy, including nuclear missiles.  

It’s 1957 and the Soviet Union had put their Sputnik satellite in orbit, setting America on edge at being behind in “the space race.” That a simple family situation can be rapidly escalated and misconstrued as “a threat to the nation” pushing it to the brink of nuclear war, is, well, as timely as our daily news.  

Bird’s film is beautifully animated and richly scored, and the text is full of both humour and inspiration.  When Hogarth, the 9-year-old boy who is protecting the iron giant, explains to an older buddy about being bullied at school, the friend tells him, “Look, it’s none of my business, but who cares what those creeps think about you?  They don’t make you what you are, you do!  You are who you choose to be.”  In the climax of the film, Hogarth passes this same advice along to his iron friend.

War Games (1983)

Another story that puts the United States on the brink of nuclear war because of a prank game begun by a 17-year-old high school nerd (a very young Matthew Broderick), with the collusion of his girlfriend (a very young Ally Sheedy).  The film is sent twenty years after The Iron Giant, in the mid 70s.  

Computers are just beginning to arrive in industry and, of course, the military. Broderick’s character accidently hacks into the NORAD Defense Command’s master computer WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), which, in the film, is as big as a box car, with hundreds of little blinking and beeping lights.  

The story is another example of American paranoia about its perceived enemy, Russia, and how quickly simple misunderstandings escalate into global nuclear tension.  Seeing these two movies back-to-back was a revelation about American movie storytelling in the last decade of the last century.

These two films will have repeat screenings at SilverCity on Thursday, February 8, which is the final day of this FLASHBACK FILM FEST.  For other titles and screening times check out Cineplex’s SilverCity website, Thunder Bay location.