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DVD Review: Timecrimes

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Movies with a time travel theme always tend to rile people up. A grand example of how not to make a time travel movie would be Timecop — a film that presents its viewers with multiple timelines that seem to crisscross and has its hero darting back in time to save the day (which he does, subsequently altering history in the process). Even the Back To The Future films (which I dearly love) offer up the possibility that the past and future can be changed. Balderdash, I say; what’s happened has already happened and what is to be already is… or something like that.

Over the years, there have only been a handful of movies and television shows that have presented the theory known as the ontological paradox (and sometimes the predestination paradox) — the belief that a person venturing back in time to change history would only in turn fulfill their destiny in creating said history. Let’s say Bob sees a stranger steal a pair of boxers from his underwear drawer, chases him, but is unable to catch him. Undaunted, Bob hops into his time machine to go back and stop the man but, as luck would have it, the journey backwards literally scares the piss out of him, and so he goes to his underwear drawer for a new pair of boxers, only to be surprised by his “past” self walking in on him, causing him to run away before, well, something weird happens. Bob turns out to be both people — and his “future” self is what you might call a “loop in time” for which there is really no accounting… or something like that.

Personally, I tend to favor movies that explore the ontological paradox — and I really favor Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes, a Spanish-made entry in the science fiction field that manages to give its actors a chance to play entirely different versions of the same people at different points in time (if that makes any sense to you at all). Regrettably, I am unwilling to disclose much of the film’s premise as it will only be spoiling it for you, as this is definitely one movie you should see! But, in an effort to whet your appetites, I’ll give you this much: our middle-aged hero, Héctor (Karra Elejalde), sits in his backyard looking through a pair of binoculars. He sees an attractive young woman taking her clothes off and, like any straight man would probably do, goes to investigate (after all, this woman may be in trouble).

Finding the young woman (Bárbara Goenaga) fully nude and apparently asleep, Héctor moves in to make sure the poor thing is okay and is abruptly stabbed in the arm by a man in a tattered trench coat whose face is all bandaged up (à la Darkman). Fleeing from the unknown maniac, Héctor makes his way to a large building nearby and is assisted by a young man (writer/director Nacho Vigalondo), who tells him to hide in this very large mechanical vat thingamajig. Moments later, Héctor emerges from the vat; it is now earlier that day, the young man has never seen him before, and there’s a guy that looks just like him at his house with his wife (Candela Fernández).

Okay, so Héctor’s a pretty big dope to fall for the good ol’ “Hey, jump into this device which, I should point out, is NOT a time machine” gag in the first place and, while it may seem like I gave away a lot of the film, rest assured that that’s just the first part of Timecrimes — and it just keeps getting better from there. Although none of the main actors are really well-known folks, they all deliver wonderful performances throughout the film (and it’s so nice to see a middle-aged guy as the hero for a change — makes it more “believable” I think), and writer/director/actor Nacho Vigalondo keeps the pace tight the whole way through. Timecrimes is like a mashup of science fiction and giallo movies — and I loved every single minute of it.

A hit in its native Spain (and it has earned several nominations and won several awards around the world), Timecrimes was released theatrically in the US by the indie label Magnolia Pictures and (sadly) received a minor distribution (mainstream moviegoers have a very hard time watching subtitled movies — hence the reason Timecrimes is being remade for American audiences). Luckily for us, Magnolia and Magnet Releasing have slapped Los Cronocrímenes onto those little plastic discs that we movie lovers go nuts for so that everyone can enjoy this fantastic feature.

Presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, Timecrimes presents a modest but not altogether great transfer. The colors are a bit dull and the image exhibits a bit of grain (possibly due to the movie’s low production values to begin with). Audio options are provided in the original Spanish language and in dubbed English (both with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 to choose from) while subtitles are available in English.

This disc doesn’t skimp on the extras either: there’s a 44-minute making-of featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, a look at the creation of the Timecrimes Internet game (which Nacho used as a way to cheaply promote the film), a make-up featurette, gallery, and a few trailers for both the main feature and several other titles from Magnolia/Magnet. But for me, the most inspired special feature was a 7-minute short film from director Vigalondo entitled "7:35 De La Manaña (7:35 In The Morning)," a very funny and offbeat look at what happens when crazy people try to bring the song and dance routine that goes on in their head out into the real world. If you don’t care much about bonus materials, fine — but just be sure to take a look at "7:35 De La Manaña." My one and only complaint is that the movie is marketed as something of a horror/slasher flick with a sci/fi twist to it (which it isn't).

The bottom line here: Timecrimes is a great film and is certainly one of the best time travel flicks to grace audiences in ages (and no, I haven’t seen Primer yet, so don’t start).

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.