The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Timecrimes

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

Think about the past hour’s minutiae — words, deeds, motivations, distractions, every last specific decision and action charting a course to this new hour. Impossible, isn’t it?

Try duplicating, and slightly diverting from, that hour to foil several exponential versions of yourself from inheriting your life. That’s the hook for 2007’s “Timecrimes” — a nefarious, ingeniously rigged time-travel thriller about a lazy afternoon turned paradoxical nightmare.

Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo makes no bones about huh-but-wait-no-see-uh storytelling. At a certain point, it can’t even be assumed you entered this tale at the beginning, and attention must be undivided.

But unlike the oft-heralded, similarly twisty “Primer’s” revelry in making you feel stupid, “Timecrimes” rewards this mental absorption — never inflating stakes, science or suspense for snobbery’s sake and playing fair, no matter how treacherous “fair” seems.

“Timecrimes” threatens only a man, his wife, a bicyclist and a scientist at a lab in the woods. (Avoiding merely vainglorious self-insertion a la M. Night Shyamalan, Vigalondo plays the scientist, who must have minored in friendly exposition.)

They’re all pawns in a minor time loop with major implications, beset by a scissors-wielding prowler whose gauze-swabbed face makes him look like an escapee from Clive Barker’s id.

Watching “Timecrimes” is like fumbling for bearings in a pitch-black haunted house. Hitting walls where paths should be proves more fun than frustrating, and Vigalondo inventively gooses time-travel tropes of choice versus fate.

Even with five minutes left, “Timecrimes” could conclude in any number of ways — proof its hindsight, and foresight, is 20-20.

Bad trailer, too many spoilers.

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3 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Timecrimes”

  1. Nick Rogers says:

    I came away from it satisfied that the character’s actions, inconsistent as they might seem in the moment, have to do with what version of himself we’re seeing and, thus, the knowledge he’s accumulated at that point. I’ll grant you the chess-piece characterization, and it’s not "Memento," but it’s not aiming for tragedy. As time-travel brain-ticklers go, it easily exceeds "Primer," which, perhaps like you with this one, I have zero interest in ever revisiting. Then again, I also think "Timecop" is a woefully underrated time-travel film.

  2. Austin Lugar says:

    I was surprisingly disappointed by this film. Once I realized that it was just a puzzle, I felt there was no other conclusion. (Look at me being vague.) So I like this film as a well constructed puzzle, but as a story I don’t think it entirely works. Especially since the main character has to either be really dumb or really smart depending on the scene.

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