dir. Nacho Vigalondo
Time travelling films have always been an interesting niche in cinema. The bad ones fail spectacularly but the good ones are always proof of stellar writing and good direction. It definitely takes a lot to make a non-linear narrative be cohesive and make sense. However if it’s done well, it leaves a lasting impression as one of the superior science films. Time Crimes is, in my opinion, one such film. It’s a hidden gem that more people deserve to know about.
No one knows how time travel works or it’s implications, and this film doesn’t necessarily answer those questions. Instead, it acts as a chronicle of our main protagonist’s journey within the span of an afternoon wherein he has to do increasingly difficult tasks that challenge his morality. Part of what makes this film great is seeing our protagonist’s transformation through it all.
Instead of our typical attractive young lead commonly seen backflipping through explosions in science fiction films, we have Hector. Hector is as ordinary as they get but like any other character, his life changes drastically when he gets shaken out of his normal routine by an extraordinary event. What then follows is an intense character study where we see our protagonist transform with every single time he gets out of the time machine.
This movie obviously has a low budget to work with and it compresses the setting, characters, and production design, but it works in the film’s favour. This puts more focus on the limited actors’ performances, as well as the few significant props that we saw. All of them were important within this narrative and screen time isn’t wasted on anything unnecessary.
Three other people play roles in Hector’s time travelling journey. We have his wife, Clara, who serves as Hector’s motivation. He starts nonchalant towards her and it’s clear that she’s more taken with him than he is with her. He ever goes as far as creeping on a random lady in the forest and following her. After though, he seems to realize his priorities and think that his actions have led to this unlikely journey, making him choose Clara once again.
The woman in the forest is a victim and even worse, she’s unnamed. we start out thinking that she’s quite suspicious, because honestly who in their right mind would choose to get naked in the middle of the forest. My initial thoughts led me to her being part of a witch coven or a cult. In reality, she starts out kind and even tried to help Hector which quickly becomes tragic. Hector uses her for his own benefit, leading the other Hector to commit the same mistake he did so that the time loop reaches its fulfillment, and she dies in the process. So it seems that her kindness was rewarded with death.
And lastly the scientist, played by Nacho Vigalondo himself. From the beginning, he’s the only one who’s actually in ‘the loop’ (forgive the pun) regarding Hector’s whole time travelling conundrum. It’s interesting to note that the actual director plays the guy dictating Hector what to do.
The tone and pacing of this movie are great as well. The first part sets the movie up as a thriller but then the plot twists give it a slightly comedic note e.g. when Hector, wearing the bandages, tries to find the exact place where he scared the first Hector away. It’s a clear subversion of expectations.
Overall, this was a clever little movie with a well-written screenplay that does the most with what is has. I truly believe Nacho Vigalondo’s debut feature film, which he wrote, directed, and performed in, deserves a place among some of the best time travelling/science fiction films out there. Apparently, there are Hollywood plans of making a remake but that might just make it lose its charms. What makes it so great is that it present a good story stripped to its barest form, emphasizing only what’s important and what the audience should know.