Timecrimes should be a film about a mid-life crisis. Its main character is a financially stable, pudgy man in his late 40s with an all-too stable and ideal marriage and home, and its plot points include an off-putting fixation with a younger woman, a number of stylish cars, and the ultimate souring of the main character as a response to the film’s central crisis. That’s what the film is, at its core, and it’s all the better for it. But this story happens underneath layers of horror, thriller, and sci-fi, in that order.
What I find is most sharp and affecting about the film is that in its blend of genres (Horror, Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi, Thriller), it chooses to focus on the drama of the situation the most. We follow the conflicted nature of Hector realizing he’s fated to make a series of downright immoral and unethical choices. This predates a TV series with a similar focus, Breaking Bad, considered by many to be one of the best TV series of all time. The focus on a man “breaking bad” instead of the more outlandish factors surrounding his transformation make the film as compelling as the series (at times, just as horrifying as the series when it wanted to be), and the film boasts the feat of pulling this transformation off in the concise time period of less than 6 hours in this man’s life. 6 hours repeated 3 times, each to its own devastating effect.
This kind of functional examination of time travel in relation to ethics and free will has been utilized in American films within reach of Timecrimes’ release, such as Primer or Looper. Where these films often tackle the larger implications of such time travel (often with plot lines that address some variation of the “What if you went back in time and killed Baby Hitler? Question), Timecrimes decides to keep things personal, and this opens the story up to becoming variations of itself, while sticking to the same skeletal structure of “The misuse of technology = Bad things” that defines the sci-fi genre.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is part-thriller and part-horror as well. While the overall implications of time travel mark the film as sci-fi in nature, each variation of Hector we see, seems to see the story in a different genre. The first, most naïve Hector sees his stretch of the 6 hours as a Horror story – Ogling a woman from afar leads to his stabbing, being chased by a malevolent figure, then having to trust a shady stranger. The 2nd Hector, one now in the know about time travel and its implications, is caught up in a Thriller – tension mounts in his having to fulfill the sequence in the woods his former self had seen and become caught up in. The 3rd and final Hector decides to change this twisty narrative by turning it into a revenge-driven Drama, determined to stop the madness and save his wife.
He succeeds, but the film, overall, is a tragedy with sci-fi elements. His mid-life crisis is one filled with despair, but at least it’s over in 6 hours. He saves his wife, but kills an innocent stranger he knew too well to do so. Timecrimes’ storytelling is effective in that it situates its audience directly with its protagonist – in the worst manifestation of the phrase “so much to do, so little time”, taking us to hell and back in the minimum amount of time it takes to radically change a person.