Studio: Magnet Releasing
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Producer: Javier Ibarretxe, Eduardo Carneros, Esteban Ibarretxe
Stars: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernandez, Nacho Vigalondo, Barbara Goenaga
An undressed woman in the woods, a stalker with a bandaged face, and a pair of scissors become three important puzzle pieces when an ordinary man stumbles into a time travel scenario.
If you are reading this review as a decision factor regarding whether or not to see the movie, stop. “Timecrimes” belongs in that category of film where knowing as little as possible beforehand is in the best interest of complete immersion. Know only that “Timecrimes” is highly entertaining and well worth the investment. However, should you need more convincing, or just a bit more information, no more about the story will be discussed here than is revealed on the back cover of the DVD.
The title already discloses the biggest twist of the film. That time travel is the primary hook would otherwise not be obvious until the story was well underway. Hector is an unassuming man who plans to spend his afternoon lounging lazily in the backyard while bird watching. After a seemingly unrelated sequence of events, Hector finds he has inadvertently traveled back in time while escaping a masked stranger armed with a pair of scissors. Anyone spending too much time comprehending the images on both sides of the DVD box will be able to fill in a few blanks, but the best details remain a mystery right through the final scene.
Hector stepped into the central mystery of “Timecrimes” straight from the Everyman mold of Hitchcock classics such as “North by Northwest” and “Rear Window.” Innocuously armed with binoculars, much like Jimmy Stewart’s Jeff Jefferies, Hector raises his hands at precisely the wrong time, much like Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill, and finds his life changed permanently from one simple action. And that is only the first lesson in Hector’s crash course on how casual actions have unfathomable consequences.
Hector embodies many more of those hallmark Everyman traits. Butterfingered, balding, and with a paunchy midsection, Hector could be a stand-in for anyone’s next-door neighbor, even though he may be slightly more thoughtful and resourceful than the average Johnny Lunchpail. He barely wastes any time puzzling over the incredulity of his errant stumble through the space-time continuum. Instead, Hector accepts his circumstances and concentrates on barreling forward towards a solution. And what his efforts give the audience is a brisk thriller with a balanced pace and fantastic fantasy.
Depending on its use in film, time travel logic can be a tough sell. Sci-fi extravaganzas are typically afforded more latitude in their science when time travel is just one minor facet in a greater spectacle of chrome skeleton cyborg warfare. “Timecrimes,” like Shane Carruth’s “Primer,” takes a thoughtful approach to time travel and the real world effects that such a possibility might imply. But time travel is not the central focus. It is only one element to tell the story. The broader narrative is one ordinary man’s journey to bring himself back to his ordinary life, despite being caught in an extremely extraordinary situation.
With a pen and paper, an armchair academic could plot out the logic of “Timecrimes” and highlight more than one factual inaccuracy with the laws of physics. But why would anyone want to? That is not what “Timecrimes” considers most important. Sharp suspense is.
Those who are off put by mindbending narratives such as “Memento,” or who prefer more casual entertainment than a David Lynch film might allow, have little cause to fear “Timecrimes.” It is intelligent without being overly complex. “Timecrimes” requires just enough mental engagement to stay with the plot so that there is never enough time to slow down and entertain the disbelief, but it is never so far ahead as to foster confusion. The script is not interested in proving how clever it is. Nor is it interested in convincing anyone of the plausibility of its scenario. Rare is the movie that is both smart and universally accessible, as well as thoroughly entertaining, and “Timecrimes” delivers the complete package.
NOTE: The Spanish title is "Los Cronocrímenes."
Review Score: 90