Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Time Crimes (spanish movie)

Hector (Karra Elejalde) is spending a few days in the countryside with his girlfriend, Clara (Candela Fernández), when he sees something that catches his attention while playing with his binoculars. Looking at a nearby house near a wooded area, Hector spies a beautiful woman taking her clothes off, and decides to take a stroll and give her a closer look. However, when he arrives at the house several minutes later, the woman is lying in the grass and appears to either be dead or passed out.

As Hector examines her, he's attacked by a strange man and flees on foot. Hector seeks refuge in a building that turns out to be a research facility owned by a mysterious scientist (Nacho Vigalondo), who gives him a place to hide inside a futuristic closet. However, Hector realizes it was actually a time-travel machine when he emerges a few minutes later and looks out the window to see himself standing over the unconscious woman in the distance.

The blurb for Timecrimes had me interested from the beginning, I mean what film that mentions time travel wouldn't? The fact that it was a non-hollywood film as well was stacked in its favour.

The film turned out to be more than I had hoped and had me thinking about the story and the consequences long after it had finished and I'd left the cinema, the perfect film. Yet at the same time that was one of the problems with it as the more I thought about it the more I worked out how it could all have been different.

Timecrimes, or Los Cronocrímenes in it's native Spanish, tells the story of a man who witnesses what could be a terrible crime by a masked figure...actually I don't want to tell you much more and would prefer that you discover the story for yourself. Suffice to say that the man ends up travelling short distances in time in order to unravel and control events around him.

It's a fascinating idea and one which is explored with a superbly crafted script. It doesn't seem to falter and keeps the pace going with plenty of surprises and tension for the journey.

I found that I was mesmerised by the story and how the man was dealing with events. The script carries quite a few plot threads to it, each layering on top of the other to reveal more of the overall story.

What's particularly fascinating about the way that it's written is it doesn't play on one time frame like many other stories that use time travel. So often we'll see the same event or time period revisited and altered, but with Timecrimes these threads overlap and extend the story on its own time frame as well as delving deeper into the story.

This provides for a fascinating viewpoint for the film, and really does make the story so much more gripping and engaging. It had me drawn to it almost immediately and I could feel the tension rising as the layers were added and drawn out.

Tension and suspense are strong in this story and keeps building each time a new layer is added, I could really feel myself getting more and more wound up as the film progressed.

It also holds some superb reveals within it, not many of which are wholly expected. Unfortunately I found that the twist at the end of the film was quite apparent, but what was good about it was the way it was crafted and developed on screen, this was the strong part of it and not just the reveal itself.

The acting is good, solid and believable for all the performances, and the filming itself is good, very unobtrusive and at times offering something a little clever, like the moment when the man arrives at the glass window.

Another scene I particularly liked is when the man first arrives at the station on the hill, seeing all the screens and clues around the room makes us realise that all is not as it seems. I really liked that moment where the audience are left to gleam their own understanding of events.

There are a few disappointments though, one was pretty early on when a stock horror moment was dragged out and became unbelievably painful. The man trips and falls while being chased and decided to lie down just waiting for the attacker to come. Oh it was overly painful and I was about to tear my hair out, what little I have left anyway.

I know that's minor, but in such a great film it was a real surprise to see such a weak moment in it and it stuck out like a sore thumb.

There's also something that didn't quite fit right with the final layer of the story which sees our main character give in, almost resign himself to the events unfolding around him. The previous drive that he showed in the rest of the story seems gone, he seems beaten.

Here the story and pace seem to back off and lets the tension disperse with as our character hangs back and no longer gets so involved.

With that ending I can't help wondering what actually happened at the end of the second story layer when the story seems to pivot around as the two main characters stand outside the station in the dark. That seems to me to be left hanging, and where the rest of the film explored the idea well and had gone to great pains to explain and connect everything else, following each thread, it suddenly leaves this thread unfinished, and leaving the audience to make up their own minds about events.

That's all very well normally, but at this stage of the film and with the way the story was going, it just doesn't feel quite right.

Also, once I thought about the story for a while after watching it I began to pick holes with it and with the decisions of the main character. I did begin to wonder why the lead didn't make other choices and not get involved in the main instigating incident, especially when he began to understand what was happening.

You know despite all this I still have to say that this is an excellent film. Yes it isn't perfect, but it's dealing with a very thought provoking subject and one where there are no clear answers or decisions. After all, time travel is just in the movies.

Time Crimes is a superbly written, carefully crafted film that contains surprises and tension galore. Very well filmed and acted it delivers a thought provoking thriller and a unique view of time travel that will definitely enthral.

It's really not that obvious for a young and still aspiring writer/director to revolve his long-feature film debut on the hugely complex topic of time traveling, as a failure could immediately affect your credibility as a director and maybe even ruin your further career before it properly started. True, Nacho Vigalondo already received an Oscar nomination in 2005 for one of his short films, so you know he must somehow be talented, but still, to take on subjects like paradoxes and time loops in your first film displays a lot of courage and ambition.

But Vigalondo was right to feel confident, as his script is intelligent, engaging and not nearly as implausible as you'd expect from a Sci-Fi film. When thinking of films about time traveling, you promptly imagine there to be giant laboratories full of machinery with thousands of little buttons and colorful lights (or maybe a DeLorean), macho men in futuristic costumes and endless overlong speeches about scientific theories. The last things you expect to see are normal, identifiable characters in their everyday environments and how they're suddenly and involuntarily involved in Science-Fictionesque situations.

"Timecrimes" introduces Héctor, a middle aged house father with a slight voyeuristic habit. When Héctor spots a naked girl in the woods through his binoculars, he decides to look for her (who wouldn't?) but suddenly he finds himself chased by a madman with an uncanny bandage wrapped around his head and waving around a pair of scissors. Héctor finds shelter in a nearby lab and the technician advises him to hide in a peculiar device filled with liquid. The real problems only just begin when Héctor emerges again. Realizing he traveled back a few hours in time, Héctor witnesses himself running through the woods and painfully also comes to realize who exactly he was running away from.

The plot grows increasingly convoluted with each minute, but strangely enough the film always remains easy to follow and fast-paced. When the whole script is one giant paradox, you also prepare to encounter a lot of plot holes and improbabilities, but the film actually makes sense all the time. There's a more than fair amount of suspense, beautiful photography and atmospheric musical guidance. Karra Elejalde is simply superb in his difficult and unconventional role as Héctor the anti-hero and Barbara Goenaga is . apart from a really great actress . a stunningly ravishing woman. Terrific film.

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posted by u2r2h at Tuesday, January 27, 2009


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