BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A man travels back in time one hour and, for his own survival, must ensure that events are not changed.
PROS: Mind-bending treatment of time travel; some tense moments.
CONS: Because it deals with time loops, it’s somewhat predictable at times.
BOTTOM LINE: A well-handled exploration of time loops, causality and paradox.
Time travel is one of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction – as long as it’s not used as a convenient plot device to get a character from point A to point B. Instead, time travel stories that face the time paradox head-on work best, weaving in and around itself in a time-looped Möbius strip. Timecrimes, a new independent time travel thriller from Writer/Director Nacho Vigalongo, happily does not fear the paradox but embraces in it.
The story starts unassumingly enough. Hector, a loving husband and somewhat hapless schmoe, is relaxing in his yard when he spies through his binoculars a young woman removing her top in the woods. He decides to get a closer look, stumbles into an apparent murder scene, and is attacked by a man wearing a bandage around his head brandishing a pair of scissors. Looking for help, Hector stumbles into a nearby research facility where he is thrust about 1 hour back into his own personal timeline.
*** CONDITIONAL-SPOILER WARNING ***
(What the heck is a Conditional-Spoiler Warning? It depends on whether you have seen the trailer. It’s easy to give away too much with this film and I think the film’s trailer does just that. So, I’ll mention things here that are in the trailer, but I think the film is better enjoyed without watching the trailer. So if you have not seen the trailer, skip this part!)
As most readers of time travel stories have already guessed, the man in the bandages is Hector himself – dubbed “Hector 2” because he has travelled back in time. Hector 2 knows how the following events have to play out and thus begins to ensure that they do indeed play out that way to save his own life, as per a quick-to-miss comment by the scientist who enabled the travel. But, like any good story, the unexpected happens to the characters. Enter “Hector 3”, who is meant to clean up the whole mess.
*** END CONDITIONAL -SPOILER WARNING ***
With its time travel theme, low budget and small cast of characters, one is reminded of Primer. Both are intelligent, well-written, mind-bending treatments of time travel, though Timecrimes is slightly more predictable – a hard thing to overcome when dealing with time loops. However, the film hardly suffers for that; it’s still an enjoyable, tightly-plotted thriller that is as much a time travel story as it is a study of how one man (who otherwise goes uncharacterized) handles a crisis. Hector’s motivation (to preserve a life by not altering the past) is met with an interesting obstacle (to preserve a life by changing the past), one that is wonderfully handled by a dark turn of events. Even though events play out like they have to (that’s the predicatble part), Hector’s predicament is still fascinating to roll around in your head.
If you like time travel stories and can handle subtitles, I recommend Timecrimes. If you can’t handle subtitles, I understand that there is a U.S. remake of this film coming in 2009. Catch it then: Timecrimes is a well-handled exploration of time loops, causality and paradox.