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TIMECRIMES

An unusually clever and nimble but also extremely dark time travel thriller from Spain.  Itís an impressive accomplishment, though not especially deep or profound.

The Package 
     Already a favorite on the festival circuit, having won prestigious awards at the Fant-Asia and Amsterdam festivals, this 2008 film was picked up for US distribution by Magnet for their 6-Shooter Film Series (kicked off with the stunning LET THE RIGHT ONE IN).  TIMECRIMES (LOS CRONOCRIMENES) was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, an Academy Award nominee (for his short film 7:35 DE LA MANANA) who announces himself as a distinct and vital talent.  He also acts in the film, ably playing Chico the nerdy time machine operator.
     TIMECRIMES, FYI, has been inked for an inevitable Hollywood remake, to be directed by Oscar winner Steve Zallian.  Just be sure you catch the original first!  

The Story 
     Hector, a seemingly unflappable yuppie, is sitting out on his deck one afternoon with binoculars.  In the woods bordering his house Hector spies a dude with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head canoodling with the apparent corpse of a naked woman.  Leaving his beloved wife Clara behind, Hector goes to investigate, and gets stabbed in the arm by the bandage-head.  The latter chases Hector to a nearby laboratory, and into a control room manned by Chico, an eccentric young man who encourages Hector to ďhideĒ in a watery chamber.
     It turns out the chamber is a time machine that thrusts Hector back earlier in the day.  He is now Hector 2, with Hector 1 going about his business unaware that his double from the future is spying on him.  Driving home, Hector 2 spots the woman he saw being manhandled, and slows his car...only to be driven off the road by a red van that immediately drives away.
     Hector 2 is severely injured in the accident and wraps a bloody bandage around his head, thus becoming the figure he spied in the woods.  He decides to reenact everything he saw earlier in order to keep Hector 1 from knowing the truth of whatís happening, and so gets the woman to strip and play dead.
     But the woman runs off and Hector 2 chases her back to his house.  In the ensuing melee he ends up apparently killing his own wife, and so heads back to the time machine.  He asks that Chico the operator send him back before the mess began, but Chico is reluctant to do so.
     The reason for Chicoís reticence?  Hector 3 has already gotten in touch with Chico, and told him to call off the whole thing, as thereís further trouble on the horizon.  Hector 2, however, demands to be sent back, and the operator grants his wish... 

The Direction 
     Many critics have overpraised this film, which is clever and diverting, certainly, but almost entirely plot-driven.  We never learn much about the central character or his relationships, much less the time machine that sets everything in motion.
     But I canít fault the narrative drive, which is fast, sprightly and consistently inventive, with just four characters and a mind-boggling series of time travel convolutions that nonetheless seem entirely plausible.  The opening scenes, in the manner of quite a few time travel movies, initially seem dull, but turn out to be vitally important in setting up the succeeding twists. 
     By the time itís all over the film has grown downright hypnotic.  Itís also unexpectedly grim, with several jolting scenes of violence and nudity, and a decidedly bleak trajectory that sees the hero commit a truly despicable act as part of his final redemption. 
     Think of TIMECRIMES as a dark variation on BACK TO FUTURE (in particular the sequence in which Michael J. Fox witnesses himself going back in time).  It possesses about as much depth as that film, but also contains an abundance of energy and inspiration, which in this case is reward enough.


Vital Statistics 

TIMECRIMES (LOS CRONOCRIMENES)
Magnet Releasing 

Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Producer: Eduardo Carneros
Screenplay: Nacho Vigalondo
Cinematography: Flavio Martinez Labiano
Editing: Jose Luis Romeu
Cast: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernandez, Barbara Goenaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Juan Inciarte
 


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