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Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes)

Reviewed by: John Dedeke
5 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Karra Elejalde as Hector
Candela Fern·ndez as Clara
B·bara Goenaga as the Girl on the Bicycle
Ion Inciarte as Hector Double
Nacho Vigalondo as The Young Man

Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo


Though it's seldom acknowledged, the potential consequences of time-travel can be pretty terrifying. Theoretically, a single, seemingly insignificant change to past events could result in the alteration lives – or even the end of them.

But despite its inherent possibilities for horror, the subject of time-travel in film seems forever shackled to the same safe themes and plotlines, a prison that director Nacho Vialondo recognizes but from which his film Timecrimes unfortunately can't fully escape. With this surreal thriller about a man trapped in his own chronologically-jumbled nightmare, the Spanish auteur tips his camera toward the dark side without ever quite pushing it over the edge. Timecrimes pulls the mask off some of the moral and ethical risks wrought by the ability to change fate, but seems far less interested in exploring or exploiting them than in staging a moderately predictable puzzle for the audience to solve.

That puzzle unravels before us through the prying eyes of oafish backyard voyeur Hector (Kerra Elejalde). Settling into the new country home he and his wife have recently acquired, Hector whiles away a chilly Saturday afternoon lounging in a lawn chair with a pair of binoculars. When he spies a young girl disrobing in the woods, his lurid curiosity pulls him from his relaxed perch and sets him off for a closer look. With a little hunting, Hector discovers the nude girl, ostensibly dead on the dirty ground. As he attempts to revive her, he is stabbed in the arm by an assailant cloaked in black and masked in gauze like a feral woodland Darkman. He flees into the deepening night, eventually arriving at a vacant laboratory tucked hidden away in the forest, where a voice on a walkie-talkie beckons him to seek safety in a nearby silo. There he finds a younger man (director Vigalondo pulling double-duty) barricaded behind walls of bulky computers, and a glowing tub of white liquid. Too frantic to question anything, Hector climbs into the milky pool at the young man's insistence and embarks on a 1.21-jiggawatt journey into the past – and unwittingly sets off a chain reaction he must spend the rest of the film undoing.

Timecrimes starts off deceptively strong. We're drawn into Hector's journey like Alice chasing the White Rabbit into Wonderland, one weird occurrence following another. The direction in which Vigalondo is leading us is intriguingly unclear, but points toward the kind of salacious, unsettling territory Alexandre Aja covered so splendidly in Haute Tension – a kind of artsy sleaze that seems to work best when it's handled by someone outside the states. Yet just as quickly as they appeared, the naked girl and lumbering killer in the woods soon fade and leave us with a jittery graduate student and a convoluted trail across time.

Once Hector begins to understand his circumstances and takes action to alter them, Timecrimes abandons any sense of blunt horror. The film instead begins a repeating cycle, adding new layers of context to previously insignificant details with each temporal jump Hector makes. The result is a clever (though logically strained) take on the paradox of time-travel, but it doesn't do much for those seeking shocks. We never really get the sense that Hector is in jeopardy, despite a few well-executed, mildly harrowing moments that occur in the deconstruction of earlier events. The tension that surrounds Hector's condition falters once it's clear that he can just keep traveling back into time to rearrange things.

More disappointing is a missed opportunity to delve into the darker implications of time-travel hinted throughout the film. In revisiting the same situations repeatedly, each time with a more omniscient perspective, Hector is imbued with godlike ability to manipulate events to his desire – at the expense of others – a disturbing, fascinating concept ripe for rumination. But as the film plays out, Timecrimes never deviates from the standard tropes of a suspense thriller. Vigalondo is too concerned with cleaning up tangled plot threads – a pretty futile effort in a movie about time-travel – to tackle such themes.

Though briskly paced, Timecrimes grows tiresome, and horror fans may want to save their own time with the fast-forward button. It's hardly a poorly made film; few no-budget productions have the nerve to try tackling a time-travel story. But its ambitions fall short where they are needed most, making it mostly a waste of your time.

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