Movies We Like
Timecrimes is sort of like a darker version of that "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons where Homer's toaster becomes a time machine and he keeps screwing up the future by altering the past. It starts off with a similarly dimwitted protagonist and comic dialogue, anyway, but then unexpectedly evolves into an effectively puzzling thriller that, once you think you know where it's going, manages to twist its way into a place you never could have predicted, but which only makes sense. BloodyDisgusting.com calls it, "One of the best time travel movies of all time," and I'll agree in that it's one of the most uniquely satisfying and intelligent I've ever seen.
HÃ©ctor and Clara just moved into a new home privately located in a scenic forest in Spain, and HÃ©ctor begins noticing some bizarre signs no less than a few seconds into the film. The phone rings but no one appears to be on the other end. He calls the number back but only gets a voicemail asking for a security code. "How can anyone know this number?" he asks his wife. "We just moved in." Later, while lounging on the front lawn and taking in views of the forest with his binoculars, he sees a woman stripping off her clothes. Venturing into the woods for a closer look, HÃ©ctor is suddenly attacked by a scissor-wielding maniac covered in bloody bandages. He makes a run for it, eventually stumbling on a high-tech looking science lab. He finds a radio and calls for help, where a scientist named El Joven guides him to a safer part of the building. But what HÃ©ctor finds determines his fate in ways he, and I doubt any audience watching, could predict.
Timecrimes is a wholly cinematic experience in that it's a story that could only be executed with film. It's Hitchcock-ian in the way the camera focuses on objects and details that affect the plot later on, but does so in such a subtle way that I'm only realizing it now as I write this. It's also largely silent with only the barest minimum of dialogue (which is a grandiose feat for a plot involving the complexities of time travel). But it doesn't even need much dialogue because director Nacho Vigalondo is immensely keen on how to thrust a story forward by carefully visualizing the actions of the characters. We just follow HÃ©ctor along on his journey as one situation builds on top of another and another. There's no time wasted on suspense for the sake of suspense, or cutaways to pretty cinematography that have nothing to do with the story. Instead, these elements are tightly interwoven into one lean thread of a movie, and while it's difficult to write about because part of its joy comes from knowing as little as possible, it moves along with such a carefully swift and engaging pace that it's over before your mind has a chance to question what's happening. While it uses a well-constructed screenplay to deliver a story, I'm more inclined to call this film a 93-minute experience, or "ride" even.
I can't admire Timecrimes enough for how it uses a time traveling plot to create a thriller--and it does so on a limited budget with virtually no special effects (again, those are details I'm only recalling after the fact because their absence has zero effect on the quality of Vigalondo's direction). I mentioned the Simpsons episode because it plays on the idea that if a person changes the past it could have drastic consequences on the future. That was the main premise behind the Back To The Future series too. Vigalondo weaves a horror story with it, and it works because it actually makes perfect sense from a logical standpoint. But the ways in which the HÃ©ctor character finds himself having to intentionally alter history to escape the nightmare of his future pay off so cleverly, and yet simply, that I'm actually surprised nobody thought to make a film like this sooner. To me, that's a sign of a modern classic.