Thursday, December 18, 2008

This crime was a treat to watch

Poster art for "<span class=

Hector (Karra Elejalde) is relaxing on a lawn chair outside of his new country home, surveying the nearby hillside through a pair of binoculars, when he catches sight of what appears to be a nude woman amidst the trees. Hiking up to investigate, he is attacked by a sinister figure whose head is wrapped in a grotesque, pink bandage. Fleeing in terror, he takes refuge in a laboratory atop the hill, where a lone attendant (director Nacho Vigalondo) ushers him in to a peculiar scientific contraption. He emerges what seems to be moments later, only to find that he has traveled back hours in time, setting in motion a brain-twisting, horrifying chain of events when he inadvertently runs into himself in Timecrimes.

Man in the pink mask in "<span class=

To describe the plot is to give away the trick to a certain extent. It begins with a middle class Spanish schlub named Héctor (Elejalda) at the end of a not particularly good day. His wife (Candela Fernández) goes out to rustle up some dinner while he sits in the backyard with a pair of binoculars trained on the nearby woods. Suddenly, he spots a nude girl (Bárbara Goenaga) sauntering through the underbrush. Moving closer to investigate, he is set upon by a terrifying man whose face is wrapped in bandages and who has apparently killed the girl. He chases Héctor through the woods to the odd scientific laboratory on the other side, where -- wouldn't you know it -- groundbreaking experiments against the laws of God and man are taking place. Héctor soon finds himself sent one hour back in time, giving him a chance to save the girl if he can act quickly enough. The middle third suffers from a strange sort of lethargy, as the chronologically displaced Héctor moves through the same sequences from a different perspective and we see the answers to various mysterious hooks set up during his initial journey into the woods. As an intellectual exercise, it's vaguely interesting, but it lacks the urgency required to really grab us. Vigalondo, however, is far too smart to simply leave things at that. What at first seems to be just narrative acrobatics is actually prep work for the last 20 minutes: a brilliant series of reversals which sets the whole film on its ear. I daren't reveal the specifics here, but its corkscrew structure elevates the premise to another level: providing not only the right sense of closure but also an intellectual dilemma that maintains its fascination long after the house lights have gone up. Timecrimes will mostly likely reward multiple viewings immeasurably, making it a shoo-in for the midnight cult circuit and/or feverish home viewing. Beyond the structure itself, Vigalondo maintains a pair of secret weapons to help keep his scenario sharp. One is the notion that Héctor understands his position completely and that -- if he doesn't behave in certain ways at certain times -- he could literally destroy the universe. It brings a dose of bizarre levity to the proceedings as he engages in a number of false starts and tries to remember the way things should have gone when he wasn't paying especially close attention the first time around. The other is the surprisingly ordinary quality of the time machine itself. It looks like an industrial storage vat: a bit technical, but nothing a 30-minute training seminar won't clear up. The process of time travel is instantaneous and fireworks-free; Vigalondo's shooting style conveys a sense of normality belied by the surreal sight of Héctor stalking himself. The lack of special effects ironically heightens that plausibility, rendering the storyline reasonably airtight. All that comes in addition to the smart pacing, dark humor, and a sense of humanistic tragedy which Timecrimes deploys in expert fashion. In the end, it really has nothing more than a clever idea, but by spinning that oyster into such a rich and varied stew, Vigalondo signals his ability to handle topics considerably more complex. On the other hand, that would mean not making fun little gems like this one... and what a terrible shame that would be. The result is something truly unusual -- a time travel film that doesn't feel forced or overly illogical. There are still times during Hector's trio of trips where we scratch our heads over perceived fallacies, but the movie appears to anticipate them, and then offers up rational and realistic answers. While many might balk at the notion of science subverted for what ends up being one man's personal problems, there's no denying Vigalondo's skill as a storyteller. Here's hoping that the inevitable American remake (rumored to be helmed by Canadian master David Cronenberg himself) can live up to the devilish delights manufactured here. A smart well crafted mystery. A solid 4 on my "Go See" scale.

WTF? Moment : After being stabbed in the arm with a pair of scissors (by himself) he finds a first aid kit where he proceeds to bandage up his arm. Later on after having a accident (where again it's himself that hits um...him), he has a huge gash on his forehead. He decides to use the bandage from his arm where he then wraps his whole head (creating the bandaged guy that he saw earlier) and it appears that the bandage has increased in length. We see that he has enough to wrap his head, create eye holes a little nose and still have a bit of bandage hanging. If he had that much wrapped on his arm wouldn't his arm look like he was Popeye on one side? LOL

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