It’s really difficult to talk about Timecrimes (aka Los Cronocrímenes) without spoiling anything. And because I had such a great time watching this movie with no information about it other than the poster image and some positive buzz, I’d like to do my best to recreate that experience for you. So I’m going to break this review into 3 parts.
These first two paragraphs will simply express my enthusiasm and encourage you to see it before you read anything more about it. In the second section I will talk about it while doing my best not to reveal too much. And then the final section (below the spoiler warning) will be for people who have already seen the movie and want to know what I liked about it. So if you like foreign sci-fi movies and/or tend to share my tastes in film and/or are intrigued by the poster image that you see here, stop reading and go watch Timecrimes on Netflix right now.
Okay, now for the rest of you who aren’t totally convinced, let’s see what I can tell you. Maybe it’s easier to say what this movie is not:
- It’s not a big budget thriller
- It doesn’t have any big name actors
- It doesn’t have an attractive, sexy lead character that we’re supposed to believe is a normal person
- It doesn’t have elaborate set pieces
Sounds like a real piece of crap, right? If it doesn’t have any of that, then what does it have? It has intelligence, a sense of humor, solid acting and directing, and lots of surprises. And I think what I appreciated the most is that it doesn’t treat you like you’re stupid or not paying attention like lots of more popular Hollywood thrillers.
If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise…
The main criticism of this movie that I’ve seen is that because it’s a kind of “predestination” time travel movie, there’s no suspense. We already know where the character will end up because we’ve seen future versions of him. But this same criticism could be made of any of the many movies that begin at the end. My god, even Citizen Kane, which many critics consider the greatest American film of all time, begins at the end. The suspense in these films is in discovering how the characters get there.
And in that way, I found Timecrimes to be incredibly suspenseful. There are many mysteries paced and spaced very effectively over the course of the movie. The revelation that Hector is the man in the pink bandage, the revelation that there’s been a third Hector sneaking around the whole time, and of course the final revelation that it was the girl in the woods, and not Clara, who fell to her death.
Another criticism is that it contains a paradox: How could Hector be tricked by his future self to make the choice to time travel when that very choice is what allowed him to trick himself? But people who make that criticism don’t understand the current scientific (not artistic or literary, but scientific) theories on time travel. Essentially, there are two theories: the single universe theory and the multiple universe theory. The single universe theory is the one that presents these seemingly paradoxical situations, but proponents of this theory have an explanation; it’s called “the principle of self-consistency” that says time travelers don’t change the past because they were always part of it. But in the multiple universe theory, the explanation is even simpler: Time travelers cause a new universe to branch off (actually all objects including electrons cause a new branch to be created each time a “decision” is made). For example, if I travel back in time and kill my parents before I was born, I’ve actually caused an alternate universe in which I won’t be born to branch off. But that doesn’t create a paradox because the universe I traveled from (in which I was born) is not altered. [See Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe by J. Richard Gott.]
This is probably more than you wanted to know in a movie review, so suffice to say that at least according to science there is no paradox in Timecrimes.
Discussions of story logic aside, Timecrimes succeeds as a fun, engaging thriller that lends itself to enjoyable conversation afterwards. By comparison, it’s not as science heavy as Primer, and it’s more grounded in the real world than Triangle. I love all three of these films, but Timecrimes is special to me because it’s the first of three that I saw. I’d love to hear what you thought about it.