I had seen posters all over the tube network describing this as perhaps the cinematic experience of the decade. With such a great billing, this must be a box office smash in the making, featuring Hollywood’s biggest star. (TC anyone?) I am proud to say, that it was none of the above. It was a film, I had already seen. Well that is a lie. The film had come up in one of my first conversations with my housemate Nav, in the week we moved into our student digs in Leicester. Exactly 53 weeks ago, to the day almost. I cannot recall exactly how the discussion surfaced but I remember being asked if I liked martial arts movies. Of course I do, was my reply and I was then quickly offered a Jet Li VCD. I was hoping to watch it all the way through that night, but after the first hour (and first disc of two) I was soundly drifting to sleep. I kept the discs but told Nav, that I would watch the remainder of the movie, later in the week. I never got around to it, and the movie became a distant memory, until last week. Having seen the various posters around on the tube, I contacted Nav to let him know. The news was greatly received that the picture was getting a nationwide theatrical release on Friday 24th September. Before I had a chance to explain any further, the decision was made for me. The weekend of release, Nav would come down to London and we would pop down to the nearest multiplex and watch the movie for ourselves.
Saturday morning came around and I was woken by a text message, just before 10am. I was not really asleep, but was by no means fully awake. I grabbed my phone from the window sill and with blurry eyes, read the message. Nav was in London and if I was free, we could go and watch the movie together. The thought of made me smile, for I had not seen my friend for over four months in which time my life had changed beyond recognition. The opportunity to pick up the pieces from where we had left the film, over a year ago was great. When would I ever before be able to switch from watching a movie on a 17″ monitor to a widescreen with Digital Dolby Surround Sound? This was an opportunity I had to make the most of. Even though, later in the morning I had considered not going. Did I really want to catch the train into London and then the Tube to meet up with my ex-house mate. I dusted away these negative thoughts, what was I going to do instead? Waste anyway another weekend at home. Spend the time browsing the net or watching television. What a waste! I made the right decision in the end. I headed over to the station and jumped onto the waiting train on platform 3, at High Wycombe station. The 13:35 to London Marylebone stopped at South Ruislip, which was where I would change for the Central Line to Greenford. It was here, that Nav would be collecting me, even if a few minutes behind schedule. That did not matter, there was plenty of time before our afternoon showing. Nav was staying with his sister, at her flat just outside Ealing, having driven down from Leicester, late on Friday evening. So this pit stop was mainly to take on board some snacks, check the directions to the cinema and catch up on the past few months. It is strange how you come to take some people for granted. People that you see everyday and whom play an integral part in your life. Then suddenly they are out of your life and you move on to something new, the next challenge. Yet, when you meet them again, it is as if time has stood still. They haven’t really changed and the reality is that neither have you. Seeing Nav after just a few months, bought back some many memories of my final year at University and some special moments from our student house. He has moved now, to new student digs in Leicester. So that brings some closure to the time at Sheffield Street. A time in my life, that I will remember forever with some fondness.
The clock was ticking and it was getting late. We had to make tracks so we headed out towards the cinema. It was 15:21. Would we make it in time for the showing, it starts at 15:45? To begin with I was optimistic, Nav may not have the greatest sense of direction in the world, but what he lacks in judgment here, he makes up for in some nifty driving skills. We perhaps made the worst decision the second we pulled onto the main road. Instead of taking the A40 directly to Park Royal. We headed into Ealing, thinking the early afternoon traffic would be light and we would make excellent time. We misjudged badly and were stuck in minor tail backs through the borough. As we came up to Hanger Lane, the clock was ticking and we were quickly running out of time. Would we make it in time? My hopes were fading, with the conversations considering our options. A refund? A later showing? My trusted driver would not be dismayed by such defeatist talk. Instead he focused on getting us to our destination in the quickest time possible. The quickest route was closed for business, far too busy and the fact we had to turn back on ourselves in heavy traffic (if we had decided to go that way) meant we would have had twice the wait. So we continued forward, in the nippy Yaris. Heading through Acton, we then made a slight detour around back on yourself to get up to the leisure complex. It was coming up to 4pm and my thoughts of seeing this particular showing of the movie had all but faded. We parked the car, as quickly as possible and raced to the foyer of the cinema. Nav tried his card in the machine, but it just would not print out our tickets. We tried another machine but it was not working either. There was no choice, we had to wait in queue and get the tickets the good old fashioned way, with some human interaction. When the pressure is on, I lose my patience rapidly, so I paced around the ticket office, while Nav waited in line. I turned away to watch the television screen showing trailers for the next Pixar animated feature, The Incredible’s. Mesmerized by the action, Nav appeared with the tickets and with great urgency in his voice said it was best for us to catch this showing. We rushed to screen five and briskly walked in. I half expected the film to be in full flow and for the main story to be playing itself out. I was as surprised as Nav to discover the screen blank, and the auditorium half empty. We rushed up the middle gangway, to find some seats towards the centre of the seating stage. Just as we stand down and switched off our mobiles, the opening credits appeared. Never before in the history of my cinema going, had I cut it so fine for a showing. I sat back, got comfortable, and began watching the feature presentation.
Having just seen, ‘perhaps the most beautiful film ever made’ and if the trivia alone is to be believed, then perhaps that is a fitting tribute. The storyline is at times confusing and you have to be quick to keep up with the pace and changing plot, but overall well worth seeing and preferably on the big screen, it really does do the whole experience a better service.
I wish I could have spent more time with Nav in London but time was not a friend. The movie had lasted two hours and by the time we got back to the flat, it was pushing 7pm. After having some delicious chocolate cake, I asked Nav to drop me off at the station. From Greenford I took the tube up a few stops west to South Ruislip. I had no idea when the next Chiltern Railways service to High Wycombe would be passing and thought I was in for a bit of a weight. Saturday night, meant the both platforms were busy with people out for the night. Within fifty seconds, a train pulled up that was heading directly to High Wycombe. What luck! I boarded an empty carriage, starred out of the window into the dark nothingness and reflected on what I had seen. Could one man really unite a country? There is a blurred line between myth, legend and reality. Nav agreed with me. Hero sits loosely among all three.