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TIMECRIMES, 2007
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TIMECRIMES,    MOVIE POSTERTIMECRIMES, 2007
Movie Reviews

Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Goenaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Juan Inciarte, Miguel Ángel Poo
Review by Keith Huckfield


SYNOPSIS:

A man accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour. Finding himself will be the first of a series of disasters of unforeseeable consequences.

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REVIEW:

Timecrimes follows Hector, a man in the middle of moving to a new house with his wife. Through a series of bizarre events Hector finds himself sent back in time by a scientist working overtime at a secret lab in the woods. Once he is back in the past he spends his time attempting to change the events that led to him being sent back, only to realise that through his meddling he is the cause not the cure. What follows is a darkly hilarious race against the clock as everything unravels around him and only by giving up can he be saved.

Directed by acclaimed short film director Nacho Vigalondo and made for a paltry budget of $2,600,000, Timecrimes is a brilliant example of lo-fi sci-fi. The film makes its point and creates the desired effect without the need for huge set pieces or complicated special effects, instead employing excellent temporal choreography and a well written plot. Far from the gratuitous excess of effects heavy Hollywood blockbusters like The Time Machine, Timecrimes is a low key, low tech masterpiece, its slow burning plot building in inches instead of great leaps and with each plot point leading effortlessly onto the next, and seemingly insignificant details all having a part to play in the bigger picture.

The character of Hector is ingeniously average; no misunderstood genius or rugged adventurer, instead he is an unfit, lazy middle aged man with a healthy spare tire and a habit of watching life pass him by through a pair of binoculars. He is a voyeur at heart, preferring to watch others live the life he would like for himself through a combination of his aforementioned laziness and a yellow streak a mile long. It is not his scientific curiosity that gets things moving, instead it is these aspects of his character that kick-starts events as he spies a topless woman in the woods and goes to investigate. His character is rooted heavily in reality and this grounds the story enough to make his predicament believable despite the fantastical concept; instead of a film about time travel, time travel is the catalyst through which we are treated to an excellent study of human fallibility. Hector inexpertly muddles his way through the series of events, his own attempts to make things better only serving to make them worse and deepen the hole that he digs for himself. His conundrum is that of the man sinking in quicksand, if he struggles he will sink deeper faster, if, however, he accepts his fate and allows events to play out as they will he will be granted reprieve, if only temporary.

It is Hector's slow realisation of this that makes his three incarnations three very distinct versions of his character. When we first meet him, Hector is lazy, complacent and selfish; he investigates out of lustful curiosity and runs out of fear; he is not investigating the girl for fear that she will come to harm, but simply to get a closer look at her naked body. The first time he travels back he becomes Hector 2, he is proactive in his attempts to avert the events he himself has caused. He forces the girl to undress, knowing it will lure his former self into the woods and that his former self will move for nothing less. His actions, however, are inexact and unsure, while he knows the sequence of events he must carry out his actions are inexact, he is not sure of what he is doing or the exact timing with which he should do things. This is demonstrated with brilliant comic effect in a scene where, after chasing Hector 1 into the woods by stabbing him in the arm, he must scare him further by staring directly at his hiding spot, only to take several attempts to find the right spot. In this incarnation he still has not realised the foolishness of attempting to change the outcome of events, nor has he accepted that his attempts to meddle in these self same events started the whole mess. By the time he takes his final trip back, Hector is a man who has seen his error in attempting to be an active participant in a history that is already written. He knows how events need to play out and he carries out the necessary deeds with numb resignation. It is at this point that there is a distinct tonal shift in the narrative and, in line with Hector's increasingly broken and damaged face, the film darkens greatly as it leads up to the bitter-sweet finish as Hector carries out his duties with a grim determination, his punishment for meddling in temporal causality.

The plot is wonderfully simple, rather than tackle the implications of time travel on a huge historic event, Vigalondo has chosen to focus on the minutiae of human existence. Everything is toned down and cut back to what it needs to be to tell the story that the director wants to tell, four people (including Vigalondo himself as our unwitting scientist) instead of a cast of thousands are plenty.

Through the simple and low tech story of Timecrimes Vigalondo has created a complex tale of human folly and redemption. Through simply making a good film he has outwitted the giants of Hollywood by showing that you do not need CGI or special effects to keep your audience entertained. That you can make a good film that requires nothing more than a well written plot and a great central performance and a quick pace. This film is a testament to anyone who wants to make a science fiction film and doesn't have hundreds of millions of dollars to do it, it shows that if you focus on the basics of film making, anything is possible, now only someone would tell James Cameron.

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