Los Cronocrimenes (or Timecrimes) is a low budget suspense film centered around the concepts of paradox and time travel. That’s not exactly a new area for films to cover, yet Timecrimes finds a fresh take. Part suspense, part sci-fi, and all good, it’s a film you should be on the lookout for. The movie relies on simply imagery, strong emotion, and a well thought-out plot to create a compelling story that you’ll enjoy wrapping your brain around.
Our protagonist is Hector (Karra Elejalde), and ordinary man whose curiosity gets the better of him. When he notices a woman undressing in the woods (Bárbara Goenaga) Hector investigates only to be attacked by a stranger whose face is completely covered by bloody bandages. His escape leads him into a laboratory to hide in a strange contraption only to emerge an hour before he entered to the surprise of a scientist (Nacho Vigalondo, who is also the film’s director).
After finally accepting the situation, Hector is forced to try and recreate the events which caused him to enter the machine. If he fails the other Hector will continue living out his life. Hector soon learns that time travel complicates things exponentially and his attempts lead to realization, mistakes, disaster, and further attempts to set right the entire series of events.
At a running time of only 89-minutes the film is well-paced and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Although the performances are all strong, it’s the plot which drives the film and keeps the audience on its toes. The entire enterprise has the feel of an old school sci-fi story which you’d expect to find in one of the long forgotten pulp magazines of the past.
In some ways Timecrimes is a very simple film which builds on some universal themes: curiosity, mysterious phone calls, and naked women in the woods will often get you into more trouble than you might first imagine. In terms of a suspense/horror movie the “monster” is quite simple. Yet it’s in this simplicity the bandaged man is given power. What easily could have been laughable becomes disturbing. As Hector falls further and further down the rabbit-hole, and we learn why you should never mess with time, our view of the protagonist begins to change as he’s forced to make hard (sometimes brutal) decisions.
Time travel films can go in many different directions regarding the logic and consequences of the subject. This one stays true to Novikov’s self-consistency principle in enforcing rules to what effect a time traveler can have to the past. Time travel isn’t a boon here, but a curse. As the scientist puts it “This machine doesn’t solve problems. In fact, it creates them.”
Fans of hardcore sci-fi should enjoy themselves; I certainly did. At the same time the film works very well as a suspense film which should also please general audiences and give them a little more than they were expecting. It’s a great puzzle which slowly reveals more and more pieces, waiting until its final moments to fit them together, and only in the end show you how everything fits together. An American version of the film is scheduled for 2011, but I have more than a few concerns about Hollywood “improving” on the tale and urge anyone who has a chance to go see the original.