Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The time-travel rom-com About Time and time-travel family movie Free Birds have us revisiting older, better time-travel movies.
Looping back on itself over and over again, the pretzel-shaped Spanish thriller Timecrimes is a movie for anyone whose mind was blown by the revelation that Skynet created Skynet. The plot, an ingeniously elaborate time-travel farce, commences when married everyman Héctor (Karra Elejalde) spots a young woman undressing in the woods surrounding his home. Things get stranger and more complicated from here, as the man goes to investigate, is assaulted by a stranger with a bandaged face, takes shelter in what turns out to be a time machine, and soon finds himself caught in a causality clusterfuck of his own creation. Remember the climax of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, in which Harry and the gang found themselves stumbling through events that had occurred minutes earlier? Timecrimes milks that gimmick for all its worth, putting the burden of chronological fidelity—making sure everything happens the way it’s supposed to—on the shoulders of its hilariously schlubby hero.
Narratively speaking, the movie’s more clever than resonant, with the fun coming almost entirely from seeing how everything is revealed. (Who is the man in the bandages? Time-travel enthusiasts will figure that out a lot faster than Héctor does.) But looking past the twisty architecture of its story, Timecrimes is also a stealth infidelity parable. The whole plot is kicked into motion by Héctor’s wandering eye, and his subsequent efforts to fix things at times play like the elaborate attempts of an adulterer to cover his tracks. That the plot also involves the hero calling his own house and hanging up, and a lab technician who swears him to secrecy, only reinforces the impression that this a sci-fi allegory about the sheer difficulty of carrying on an affair. In light of that reading, the harsh ending gains a whole new edge: To spare the feelings of one lover, Héctor must hurt the other. Like the best sci-fi movies, Timecrimes has plenty to say about the here and now. That it says it using gloriously complicated time-travel logic is just the masterstroke.
Availability: Timecrimes is available on DVD, to stream through Netflix, and for rental or purchase from the major digital services.