Sci-Fi Timecrimes

Kevin

Code Monkey
Staff member
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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Pennsylvania
Recently I had the chance to relax for a bit and catch up on some movie watching. One of the selections was Timecrimes, a 2007 movie from Mexico released as Los cronocrimenes.

The movie is the story of Hector, a man who is moving into a house with his wife, Clara. Hector is not having a good day. The movie opens with a scene of him dropping stuff that he is trying to carry from his car to the house. Once inside a ringing phone startles him a bit since nobody yet has that number. Picking up the phone he is annoyed when the caller does not speak & hangs up on Hector. Dialing back the number results in a computerized voice answering the phone asking for his access code to the restricted line.

Later in the day Hector is relaxing outside having a conversation with Clara. While talking he is using binoculars to view the wooded area surrounding his house and while doing so he notices a woman in the trees. Clara leaves with the car to go shopping leaving Hector alone. After the woman in the trees disrobes Hector's curiosity gets the best of him and he goes off to investigate. What he finds is disturbing. The mystery woman is laying on the ground against a rock with no clothing. He does not know if she is alive or dead. Moving closer to see a stranger is slowly approaching Hector from behind. When the stranger is inches away of violently stabs Hector in the arm with a pair of scissors. When Hector pulls away to turn around he sees that the stranger is wearing a long overcoat and that his head is wrapped, mummy like, with pink bandages. Hector immediately takes off running into the woods with the stranger behind him. Thinking he is in the clear Hector peers out from behind a tree with his binoculars only to see the stranger staring right back at him with his hands cupped to his eyes imitating Hector! Hector takes off running again deeper in the woods until he comes across some type of compound with several building on. Forcing his way into the first building he comes across he walks around finding nobody but a two-way radio. On the other end of the radio is somebody who identifies himself as being in one of the other buildings. Hector explains that he is being chased the person on the radio asks if the chaser is somebody in pink bandages. Yes! Quickly, Hector is told, come to the other building where the guy is and he can protect him.

Hector rushes out of his hiding spot to the other building only to be caught. Just as he reaches the other building a car pulls up. Inside the building the guy on the other end of the radio tells Hector that he'll be safe inside of the large tank that occupies most of the room. Hector is hesitant but the guys says he will follow Hector into the tank right after he hits the button to close the lid. Still hesitant, Hector is unsure but when the pink bandaged stranger peers through the window Hector quickly jumps in.

Next we see the tank lid opening and Hector emergency covered in a slight goo that was in a tank. Hector wants to know what happened but the guy says that they have never met before and wants to know how Hector got in the tank. Hector storms off with the guy behind him. Walking out of the building Hector can see that they are on a hill that looks down into his house. What he sees surprises him since his wife Clara is there with another man moving stuff into the house. Looking through the binoculars Hector can not believe his eyes when he seems to seeing himself at his own house.

The guy tries explaining to Hector that he has traveled about one hour back in time. In disbelief Hector follows the guy back to a building on the compound to make sense of it. The guy tries to explain to Hector a simple timeline of how there could be a second Hector, nicknamed Hecktor 2, and that if Hector just waits for an an hour or so for Hecktor 2 to come to the building and go in the tank just like he did then the time-line will fix itself and then he can go home. All Hector has to do is stay out of sight. The guys tells Hector to stay in the room where they are at and that he will go back to the room with the tank, wait for Hector 2, and will call Hector when it is OK.

Hector is bit impatient and still confused about how there could be two of himself. Why can't he go home? Who is this man in his house with his wife? Why should he just stand around while somebody is in his house? Spotting a phone on a nearby table he calls his house number expecting Clara to pick up. Instead a man picks up the phone and Hector recognize the voice as his own. Not knowing what to say, Hector hangs up the phone. A few seconds later the phone starts ringing just as the guy with the tank walks back into the room. An automated machine picks up the phone and Hector can hear the pre-recorded message being playing asking for the caller's access code. What did Hector do the guy wants to know?! Does Hector remember receiving that phone call? Yes? Good. Nothing, the guy explains, must be done that could possibly affect Hector 2 from repeating the same steps that Hector did before he got into the tank. If Hector 2 does not get into the tank about an hour from now then Hector's life will never be the same. The guy once again tells Hector to stay in the room while he waits with the tank for Hector 2. Hector starts to panic, he can't stay there while another man is at his house with his wife... he rummages around until he finds a set of car keys and goes outside to the garage. Finding the matching vehicle he gets in and drives as fast as he can out of the compound.
And I'll stop there since the next couple of scenes are pivotal to the storyline. Plus that was a lot of typing. :o The story continues with Hector battling with the mysterious pink bandaged stranger and realizing that he really should have listened to the guy with the tank & stayed in the building until the guy called him.

Timecrimes tells its story in a very simple style. There are no fancy special effects, no whiz bang electronics -- even when entering the tank it is just a simple mechanical lid that comes down. Movie goers who need flashing lights in their time travel stories will be in for a bit of a dissapointed. The cast is kept to a minimum as well. There is Hector, Clara, the woman in the woods, the bandaged stranger, and the guy on the compound. (After you watch the movie feel free to dispute that list. ;)) The events take place in just a few locations; the house, the compound, and the woods.

Karra Elejalde as Hector does a great job of portraying a man who is breaking down. As each event in the story unfolds, and Hector finds himself getting into even more complicated problems, you can see the change of personality that takes place. In just a few hours a quiet unassuming man who started the day unpacking his car has been transformed into a desperate person who is struggling to hold on to the life he knows. What he is willing to do in order to keep that life will change him forever. The change of character is reminiscent of Michael Douglas in 1993's Falling Down; both characters start out as your typical family man and it is that way of life which drives them to a downward spiral.

In addition to Hector it is the guy on the compound that has a pivotal role in Hector's future. As Hector's problems continue to be layered upon, with each acting as a giant domino effect, the only person he can turn to for assistance is the compound guy. By the end of the movie it is revealed that the guy is a bit more involved with Hector's problems then either man realizes.

The explanation of time travel is kept to a simple straight-forward approach as well. There are no branches in time with multiple realities, just a straight forward line. When Hector travels back in time the solution is simple... he just needs to wait until Hector 2 gets in the tank and then Hector will continue as normal. Forward time travel is never discussed. Movie fans out may have recently seen this type of time travel explanation a few years in Primer from 2004.

Timecrimes and Primer approach the idea of time travel not as some fantasy element but as something that 'just is'... one way or another it exists so the characters just deal with it, albeit in very different ways. Both movies also deal with the the nagging question of what are the consequences of time travel and, if you could travel back, what would you do? Hector is an accidental time traveler while the duo from Primer carefully planned out their actions yet some of the conclusions drawn in both movies are same.

A minor heads-up for those who may not like sub-titles... the only version of the movie that I am aware is the original Mexican release that has been released in the US with English sub-titles. Don't let that stop you from tracking down this movie to watch. All of the dialogue is paced out even enough that even in the busiest of scenes it is easy to keep up with both watching the scene unfold and reading the sub-titles.

I refrain from calling Timecrimes a "great movie" in general but I will say that it is a "great character study movie" much like the already mentioned Falling Down or even One Hour Photo with Robin Williams and for that I will give it a recommendation to watch. It is a simple movie that has a story to tell and it tells it in a direct manner that keeps your attention.

Below you can find the trailer for Timecrimes but before you watch it don't say that I didn't give you a spoiler warning! The trailer shows some of the key

 
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