Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes)
Dir. Nacho Vigalondo
Viewed: From the Balcony
Like the best, mind-blowing episodes of the Twilight Zone, Timecrimes requires a bit of a dance to review without exposing the delicious twists that lie in wait. So I'll tread lightly, but know that the best way to see Timecrimes is with little knowledge of what goes on in it's brief but densely woven hour and a half run time. But let's get into it a little bit.
Hector is doing well for himself. He's got a nice complacent belly, a loving, pretty wife and he's moving in to a big new house out in the country where he can spend lazy afternoons on lawn furniture, scoping out the woods behind his back yard with his binoculars. As he peers out on a sunny afternoon he notices a couple things... What's with that weird antennae out there? And wait a minute, what's with that hot chick taking off her t-shirt? And why isn't she wearing a bra? That last question isn't really a question the film asks, and it's not one that I asked either, just making a note there.
Of course Hector shouldn't be going out into the winding roads and paths of those woods to check on some naked lady, no matter how perfect those breasts may be. Perhaps Hector is a bit of a perv. He sure does like his binoculars after all. So off he goes and so begins a dizzying chain reaction that leads to a deadly end. But getting to that end is only the beginning. You see, Hector finds the naked lady, lying in a clearing and propped against a large stone. She does appear to be breathing. But when he gets to close to her, like his guilt manifesting itself, he's stabbed in the arm from behind with a pair of scissors, which sends him running into the woods. What happened? He pauses behind a tree and peers back towards the clearing with his binoculars only to find some guy with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head, mocking him with his hands cupped around his eyes. It's a brutally funny moment while being slightly disturbing as well, one that sends Hector hauling ass further into the woods. He comes to a flimsy chain link fence that surrounds the building producing that odd antennae. In it, he doesn't find the phone he's after, but he does find a helpful man on the other end of a walkie-talkie who leads him to his laboratory and eventually into his time machine. Yes, it gets heavy, Doc. And it only gets heavier as Hector discovers how the naked lady got there and what happened to her, who the bandaged man is and just how many Hectors he'll need to fix a really big mistake. Karra Elijalde is terrific in the lead role, wonderfully expressive as he tries to keep up with the abuse and insanity that gets progressively heaped upon him as the film races to it's end.
There are a couple similarities here to a movie called Primer that I've written briefly about in the past. But these are very surface-only similarities. Both are inspired and inspiring, low-budget, sci-fi films featuring a time-travel device at it's center. Yes, a mistake is made and things turn deadly, but isn't that always the case in a movie featuring time travel? What's blessedly different about Timecrimes is that it doesn't take an updated Visio diagram to keep track of what's going on. It rewards the viewer's attention on the first viewing -- I'm sure even further on the second but that isn't absolutely necessary as it is with Primer. And unlike many other films that venture into the loose-end happy genre of time-travel, Timecrimes sticks the landing beautifully. You're not left scratching your head -- you're left with a giant smile on your face because every one of the questions your asking yourself has been addressed in one hell of a fun ride.
It's been a long time since I've had this much unabashed fun with a film... probably going back to The Host. This is one I stress anyone to jump at the chance to see this one as it looks like it's doing a city by city release. It's wildly funny and suspenseful. It has the crazed spirit of the great late 80's DIY genre movies like Evil Dead 2 and Blood Simple -- an honest to goodness diamond in the rough that succeeds at every turn. Bravo. 2009 has some work to do to top this one. And being a highly accessible foreign film it's naturally in the works for an American remake. (sigh) But there's a rumor Cronenberg might have something to do with it so fingers crossed.