Sudden Time Jumps In Movies That Change Everything
Time jumps are not uncommon in movies. Many films open with a prologue to establish some basic facts before jumping ahead to the main story. Others end with a “one year later” epilogue that ties up loose ends or lets the audience know what happens to the characters after the primary events of the film are over. Audiences are used to these things, and have come to expect them.
Far less common, and often more jarring, are time jumps that significantly change the course of the story. Catching viewers off guard is part of the intent. These movies jump ahead years, or even decades, at a time, picking up their tales a long way down the road from when we first meet the characters. Pulling off a feat like that is not easy, but the following films do it extremely well. They all use their fast-forwards to create meaning and deliver a powerful experience.
- 1150 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
Before the Jump: David (Haley Joel Osment) is a robot who not only looks like a human boy, but also has the human capacity to feel love. He's adopted by a married couple, and when things don't work out, his mother abandons him in the woods, leaving him to fend for himself. David eventually meets another mecha named Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), who joins him in a journey to find a supposed “blue fairy” who can make him real. The fairy turns out to simply be a statue on Coney Island, essentially putting an end to David's quest. His internal battery dies as he futilely attempts to get the statue to make his wish come true.
How Long Is the Jump? 2,000 years
After the Jump: Manhattan has become encased in ice, essentially wiping out humanity. A group of advanced mechas called the Specialists finds David inside some of that ice. They can't make him a real boy, but they can use his memories to create a version of his mother for one day only. He asks them to do this and, for that solitary day, gets to make the kind of happy memory he's always dreamed of. The 2,000-year time gap crystalizes how long David has waited for this moment of love, thereby giving its arrival a heavy emotional impact.
- 272 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
Before the Jump: David Freeman is a 12-year-old boy living in Florida. One day, he heads out to pick up his younger brother from a friend's house. While talking through the woods, he falls into a ravine. The force of the fall causes him to be knocked unconscious.
How Long Is the Jump? Eight years
After the Jump: When David finally awakens, it's 1986, not 1978. Shockingly, everyone around him has aged, but he looks exactly the same as he did when he fell. A NASA scientist discovers evidence of a UFO, and it appears that David may have some connection to it. The boy is brought in for tests, where it's revealed that his missing time was spent on another planet. For him, it was two-and-a-half hours, as opposed to eight years on Earth. After meeting the UFO's robot commander Max, David escapes from the scientific facility, gives Max the alien information that was stored in his brain, and works to get himself back to 1978. The time traveling gives this young boy an astounding adventure.
- 3113 VOTESPhoto: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Before the Jump: Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic opens in prehistoric times. A tribe of Neanderthals stumbles upon a mysterious alien monolith. From it, they gain knowledge, specifically how to utilize a bone as a weapon. They then use this knowledge to drive a rival tribe away from the water hole they'd used to sustain themselves. This section ends with one of them throwing a bone into the air, which the camera tracks.
How Long Is the Jump? Literally 4 million years.
After the Jump: In arguably the most famous “match cut” in all of cinema, that bone abruptly transitions into a satellite that's fairly similar in shape. It's designed to suggest that both are forms of high technology in their respective times, yet also to indicate how far into the future 2001 is leaping. With that established, the story moves to astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and his colleagues, who are sent to look into the discovery of another monolith, only to have their on-board computer system, HAL 9000, inexplicably hamper their efforts. Just like that bone weapon, technology proves to have a detrimental side to match its usefulness.
- 453 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
Before the Jump: JT “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine) is a wisecracking new Marine recruit. He arrives at Parris Island for training. The no-nonsense drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), teams him up with an overweight soldier named Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio). Lawrence isn't good at basic training, which causes Hartman to continually berate and punish him. Things come to a head, with Lawrence snapping and fatally shooting Hartman before taking his own life, as JT looks on.
How Long Is the Jump? It's unspecified, but clearly at least a couple of years.
After the Jump: Joker is now a sergeant and working for the Stars and Stripes newspaper. He feels safe in that position until his base is attacked. Suddenly, he's sent into battle, where he sees colleagues die gruesomely and, later, tracks down a sniper. The movie ends with Joker talking in voiceover about how messed up the Vietnam War is, but how he's also not afraid anymore. He has come a long way from his days at Parris Island, having been hardened not only by the cost of war, but also by the implosion of his friend Lawrence.
- 594 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
Before the Jump: Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a systems engineer for FedEx. He plans to propose to girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) on Christmas, but is dispatched to China for an emergency work trip. The plane crashes en route, leaving him stranded on a desert island with only the packages that have washed ashore, including one that contains the volleyball that will become his new best friend.
How Long Is the Jump? Four years
After the Jump: Cast Away picks up with a visual cue that drives home just how long Chuck has been stranded. He's a shell of his former self, emaciated and completely unkempt. At long last, he's rescued from his ordeal and brought back home. His thoughts, of course, are of Kelly. She, like everyone else, presumed he was dead. In addition to losing four years of his life on that island, he now has to discover that her life has moved on. Kelly is married and has a daughter. The jump in time drives home one of the movie's main themes, which is that life pushes forward, no matter what, and no individual person has the power to stop it.
- 637 VOTESPhoto: Focus Features
Before the Jump: Motorcycle stunt rider Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) discovers that he fathered a son named Jason to his ex-girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes). He decides to stick around and try to be a good father. Finding work is difficult, so when he gets an offer to commit a string of robberies, he accepts. After a bank job gone wrong, he attempts to get away, only to be shot by police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) while hiding inside a stranger's house. Luke falls out the window and dies.
How Long Is the Jump? 15 years
After the Jump: Jason (Dane DeHaan) is now a teenager. He makes friends with a peer named AJ, not knowing he's the son of the cop who shot his father. Once this secret is revealed, Jason snaps, first beating AJ, then holding Avery at gunpoint. It seems like things are going to get very bad for a moment, until Avery apologizes. Jason decides not to pull the trigger. He's still troubled, but the apology gives him a small semblance of healing for the loss of his father. The Place Beyond the Pines uses its time span to illustrate how the actions of the parent affect the child, and how the child struggles to get out from under the weight of that.