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Timecrimes (2007)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/31/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/2/2009

Judging by the fact that people keep making them, movies featuring time-travel must be popular. This is somewhat surprising, as every time I watch a time-travel with a group, there's inevitably someone who gets completely lost. The rules of time-travel are never absolute, and they change from movie-to-movie. No matter how exciting the movie is, paradoxes and conundrums can bring the whole thing to a halt. The Spanish film Timecrimes features all of these familiar problems. The difference here is that the main character is just as confused as we are. So, if for no other reason, this makes the film worth discussing.

As Timecrimes opens, we are introduced to Hector (Karra Elejalde) and Clara (Candela Fernandez), a couple who are working on a house in country. (We presume that this is a summer home, but this is never explained.) Following a shopping trip and an unsuccessful attempt at a nap, Hector is sitting in the yard, using his binoculars to observe the local scenery. He sees a flash of color in the woods, and realizes that he's watching a young woman take off her clothes. He goes to investigate this and he's attacked and stabbed by a man whose face is covered in bandages. Hector flees, but unfortunately he runs away from his own house. Instead, he comes upon another house, and, breaking a window, goes inside. He finds himself inside of a laboratory, and thanks to a lab worker (Director Nacho Vigalondo), Hector enters a time machine and travels back in time about six hours. Emerging from the time machine, he explains all of this to the lab worker, who tells Hector to simply sit and wait for time to catch up with him and that everything will be OK. But, Hector doesn't sit and wait, and soon he's set forth a series of events which will have devastating consequences.

Have you seen the episode of Family Guy where Peter keeps having Death send him back to 1984 over and over so that he can try and fix a mistake? How about The Brak Show episode where Brak and Zorak use the "Time Shed" over and over to make doubles of themselves to avoid homework? Timecrimes has the same kind of premise, but instead of being played for laughs, this movie is dead serious. It focuses on the idea that time travel would allow one to go back and solve mistakes from the past, and that, if necessary, one could jump backwards over and over again until they got it right. In an unusual twist, the movie doesn't get hung up with any scientific material. We never learn how the time machine works or what this particular group hoped to achieve with it, nor do we learn why Hector only goes back a few hours. The movie presents this as a reality and doesn't look back.

This may sound odd, but the most appealing thing about Timecrimes is how naive and stubborn Hector is. The lab worker attempts to explain time travel to Hector and then tells him that he should do nothing so as not to disrupt the flow of time. But, the quick-tempered Hector is having none of this, and soon he's fleeing from the lab and creating all sorts of problems. This may be the first movie that I've seen where the character who we assume to be the hero creates all of the problems that the hero must face. But, it's nice to see a character who simply doesn't understand the situation. Like so many, Hector can't wrap his mind around the idea of time travel and thus, he goes about his business assuming that there will be no consequences. (Apparently, the film's moral is "sit still and be quiet and nothing bad will happen.") As for us, the audience, Timecrimes doesn't create the sort of brain-twisters seen in movies like Back to the Future or The Terminator (like, if we die while visiting the past, we won't exist in the future, etc.). In fact, a lot of these "rules" are glossed over. But, upon finishing the film, those who like to ponder on things will realize that while we thought that the movie started at the "beginning" of the story, we actually may have been seeing yet another time loop.

Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo has created a very intriguing story which works on a small scaled. (When was the last time that you saw a movie which only had four characters?) The first two acts of the movie are very suspenseful, as we wonder how Hector is going to fix the mess that he's made. However, things unravel in the third act. You know how in these stories, such as the aforementioned Family Guy, we roll our eyes at the absurdity of the characters who keep going back in time? In this serious film, the practice becomes annoying, and despite some attempts at plot twists, it feels as if Vigalondo simply didn't know how to finish the story, and this point is driven home by the slightly ambiguous ending. Still, for a low-budget film of this nature, Timecrimes is well worth a rental, if for nothing else than to point at the screen and say, "See, Hector doesn't get it either!"

Timecrimes spies on the forest on DVD courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, showing som mild grain. However, there are very noticeable scratches and dots from the source material, and one can't help but wonder why Magnolia couldn't find a better print of this relatively new movie. The colors are OK, but the image is slightly dark and shows very little depth. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in both Spanish and English. For the purposes of this review, the Spanish track was chosen. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are notably good, as they do a great job of creating off-screen space. The subwoofer effects are nice as well, helping to amplify certain scenes. When thunder or rain appear in the film, we are treated to effective surround sound.

The Timecrimes DVD offers a few special features. "The Making of Timecrimes" (44 minutes) is a very informal featurette which is comprised primarily of on-set footage which shows the film being shot. This "fly on the wall" aesthetic is supplemented by the occasional comment from the cast and filmmakers. "Cast and Crew Interviews" (10 minutes), allows us to get up close and personal with actors Barbara Goenaga and Karra Elejalde, Writer/Dirctor Nacho Vigalondo, Producer Eduardo Carneros, and special effects makeup supervisor Oscar Del Monte. The DVD includes Vigalondo's Oscar nominated short film "7:35 De La Manana" (8 minutes) which is letterboxed at 1.85:1, but is not 16 x 9. This is a quirky little movie which mixes the heist genre with a musical. Apparently, an online game was created in Spain as part of the marketing campaign for the film, as we see snippets of this in "Timecrimes Internet Game" (32 minutes). The extras are rounded out by a PHOTO GALLERY and the TEASER TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long