I’m going back to the list I published some time back of non-USAnian science fiction films for this article. One of the films on there that I’d heard of but never quite gotten around to seeing was the Spanish film Timecrimes. And there really was no excuse for it… I have a bit of a thing for Spanish-language horror films, as they’re often more properly described as ‘creepy’ movies and not jump-out-and-scare-your-pants-off horror. And just based on my viewing history at Netflix, it had been hovering around my recommended queue for years. While I’d really, really like to make a time-travel joke here, I’ll refrain and say that I just watched it a few days ago and wish I’d watched it earlier.
Time travel movies can be difficult to get right, and they often dissolve into convoluted adventure stories with characters racing against time (natch) to save history from being changed. Of course, if they fail, they would probably cease to exist, which means they never could have travelled back in time, which means they would have existed, and that’s why the movies usually become paradox-ridden and full of more holes than the average tax code. There are a few that do it extremely well (12 Monkeys, Primer) but most usually descend into comedy… intentional (Back to the Future) or unintentional (A Sound of Thunder, which may hold the record for the highest ratio of Great Source Material :: Crappy Movie). One thing they all seem to have in common is a reliance on special effects and twisted plotting. (Primer at least has little in the way of intrusive effects, but more than makes up for it with the gordian knot of its plot threads.) This is why Timecrimes (Spanish: Los Chronocrimenes) struck me like a welcome breath of air in the middle of a huge stinky, overworked field of imitations and derivatives.
It is against the law to spoil any part of this movie, especially since it’s available on Netflix and may or may not be available elsewhere on the Interwebz. Suffice to say that for a plot centered around a normal man, a research facility, a naked bicyclist, a gardener wife, a perpetually confused-looking scientist, and, well, time travel, it’s remarkably easy to follow, even in its convoluted twists and its strangely logical and inevitable chain of events. The truly brilliant part of this movie, though, comes at the end, when the last few details of the plot, and what the main character is doing, become painfully clear, yet watching (and hearing) his actions takes on the same magnetic aspect of watching a slow-motion train plunge over a cliff. It’s much like the feeling one gets watching a ‘twist’ movie a second time and seeing all the ways the director set up the twist that totally blew past you the first time.
I highly recommend this movie, and while one of the characters does get treated bad, worse, and finally horrible, with no apparent consequences to the abuser(s), it’s an excellent ride through (okay, one joke is alright) what had to be a really, really long day.
WTFs: Hard to say. At least three, though when I realised exactly the kind of arc one of the characters had, I felt I should add a fourth.