May 25, 2009

head.jpg“Timecrimes” is a film that travels through time but doesn’t go any place new.  We’ve seen the stories about the futility of correcting the past (raise your hand if you’ve tried to kill Hitler) and how our actions either A) spin wildly out of control; and/or B) were destined to happened anyway.  The greatest strength of writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s sci-fi flick is that it handles its themes well enough with a tight and interesting time-travel flick.  Its greatest weakness (aside from traveling already well-time-traveled ground) is that the devotion to its ideas strangles most of the character out of the film and the lead actor fails to craft a compelling performance.

I won’t make you go cross-eyed by trying to explain the intricacies of the time-travel so I’ll just explain the inciting event:  Lured by an attractive topless woman (i.e. the perfect lure), Hector (Karra Elejalde) goes into the woods only to be attacked by a mysterious figure with a bandaged face.  Hector runs for his life and wouldn’t you know it, he’s next door neighbors with a time-travel facility.  And with the words “time travel facility”, you know Hector’s troubles have only just begun.

timecrimes_dvd_art.jpgVigalondo constructs “Timecrimes” so that the ideas, even if you’ve considered them before, are presented as clearly and efficiently as possible.  He’s also got a strong grasp on symbolism, pacing, and his pink-bandaged mystery man is a undoubtedly a striking figure.  But the devotion to the films ideas leaves everything else coming up short and at times even a little silly.  We watch Hector transform from a schlub to a master planner and rarely does it feel like it’s because he just got such a good handle on the timeline that he’s confident in his actions.  Hector and all the other characters behave how the script tells them to and these actions rarely flow naturally from the characters.  At times I felt that the characters were doing something not because it was fated to happen due to the circumstances and their behavior but because that’s what was on page 37.

This is where Elejalde should have stepped up but he brings nothing to the role.  While it is nice to see an everyman that actually looks like an everyman (sorry, Tom Hanks but if everyman looked like you very few of us would be single), there’s absolutely nothing underneath his unimpressive physique.  He barely seems startled by these fantastical events let alone humored, shocked, horrified, or any discernible emotion.

“Timecrimes” greatest strength and weakness is its efficiency in contemplating the well-trod ideas of free-will and fatalism and whether the two are in conflict or if they overlap.  Vigalondo manages to cut through the mind-fuckery with the most clear-cut time-travel narrative as you’re going to get.  But in trying to get to the film’s ideas, he’s made a movie that’s only rewarding as an exercise and as think-piece.  As an exciting film that will keep you guessing, send your mind spinning, and featuring characters you care about, you’re going to have to go back in time to better films in the genre.

“Timecrimes” is presented in 1.85:1 Widescreen with Dolby 5.1 in English and the original Spanish along with English subtitles.  Special features include “Making of Timecrimes”, Cast and Crew Interviews, Vigalondo’s short film “7:35 de la Mañana”, Creation of “Timecrimes” Internet Game (5 Featurettes), Make-up Featurette, Photo Gallery, and a Teaser Trailer.

Rating —– C

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