The Plodding Plot: Tonally the polar opposite of director Akira Kurosawa’s kinetic Seven Samurai , the low-key Ikuru tells the less glamorous tale of a dying beaurocrat taking stock of his life and attempting to have a park constructed before his days run out.
Rewarding Pay-Off: Brimming with the same sort of fundamental decency as It’s A Wonderful Life , this feelgood epic is impossibly moving in its simplicity. No wonder Steven Spielberg describes it as his favourite film.
Action-Packed Alternative: Michael Douglas also becomes disillusioned with a life of 9-5 drudgery in Falling Down . His reaction is somewhat less constructive…
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
The Plodding Plot: A dying man lies on his deathbed, drifting in and out of consciousness as he “remembers” his former lives as past people. Throw in a soundtrack largely comprised of ambient forest noise, a series of very long shots and a seemingly non-existent narrative, and you’re left with a very strange proposition indeed.
Rewarding Pay-Off: If you’re open to the notion of cinema as a dreamy, out-of-body experience there is much to savour here. If that description makes you want to gouge your eyes out, it might not be for you.
Action-Packed Alternative: A remake in which one of Boonmee’s past lives is revealed to have been as a kung-fu fighting badass. Are you listening Hollywood?
The Thin Red Line (1998)
The Plodding Plot: Terrence Malick’s unconventional war saga focuses upon the mental drain of sustained combat, often shying away from displaying the actual violence in favour of showing the sickened and haunted expressions on the faces of the participants. And of course, this being Malick, there are plenty of lingering shots of the South Pacific island and its verdant undergrowth.
Rewarding Pay-Off: The end result is a war film stripped clean of bombast and one that remains exciting despite its more contemplative sensibilities. Quite simply, a triumph.
Action-Packed Alternative: Saving Private Ryan is a more explodey, if vastly inferior, take on the war film.