Case Number 16066


Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // April 3rd, 2009

The Charge

"A trip back in time...from present to crime."

Opening Statement

Timecrimes, or Los Cronocrímenes as it's known in Spain, is all about a guy who stumbles on to an experimental time machine nestled in the woods. You may be thinking to yourself, "That sounds absurd." But honestly, where would you keep your time machine?

That's what I thought.

Facts of the Case

Héctor (Karra Elejalde) arrives home from the store, kisses his wife, receives an odd phone call, and takes a nap. When he wakes up, he sees, through his handy binoculars, that there's a woman (Bárbara Goenaga) undressing in the woods behind his house. When he ventures off in the woods to find this woman, he discovers a masked killer waiting for him.

Héctor's only hope of escape is to retreat to a secluded laboratory, where he meets a lab technician (Nacho Vigalondo) who tells him to hide inside of this chamber...that just happens to be a time machine. Héctor is transported back an hour earlier and suddenly finds that he's "Héctor #2." That's just the beginning of his problems.

The Evidence

Time traveling stories work exceedingly well on film. In non-visual mediums like radio and print, traveling through time and all its complexities and conundrums can be a difficult jumble of description. It's even more confusing when you have, say, multiple versions of the same character running around causing a ruckus. In film, however, you just show it. The audience can see different versions of the same character, and all the havoc he or she is creating in the fabric of time and space. In Timecrimes, there's a surprising amount of havoc going on, considering there are only four characters.

One thing that always vexes me about these cyclical, puzzle-like, time travel stories is where the inciting incident comes from. When does the first instance really occur? Here, the cycle kicks off when Héctor sees a girl undressing in the woods. She's undressing for a reason, of course, and all of this leads to a murderous chase through a hillside and up to a rather desolate laboratory. Thanks to some rather heavy-handed exposition (something pretty much every time travel story needs), Héctor proceeds to undo, redo, and redo his mistakes to save himself, his wife, and this mysterious girl. Each time we revisit the series of events (a car wreck, an attack by a bandaged man with scissors, a chase, etc.) we learn a little more about what's going on, and we see how sticky fate can be.

Timecrimes was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, who prior to this has only done short films (one of which was nominated for an Academy Award, and is included on the DVD). Vigalonda, who is also busy acting in the film, exhibits a great attention to visual detail. Clues and hints are all there, just waiting to be spotted in subsequent viewings. He also has a knack for framing and camera movement, and pulls off some pretty impressive crane shots. There's an especially cool shot at the end of the while as the camera pans from Héctor's backyard, over his house, and to his driveway out front. For being rather low budget, this is a fantastic looking film.

The DVD treatment for Timecrimes matches the film's high quality, low budget aesthetic. The video, for the most part, is solid. The color-corrected palette looks great and really give the film a damp, eerie atmosphere. The occasional scratches on the transfer were a little odd, however, and didn't seem intentional. The audio is fairly good, and comes in the native Spanish (with English subtitles) and an English dubbed track. The English voice acting for the dubbed version isn't awful, but certainly adds an element of cheese to the production.

The release comes with quite a glut of supplements. First is a lengthy making-of documentary that's fairly interesting although really voyeuristic and hands-off. It's more or less someone just walking around the set with the camera, as opposed to the more Hollywood style of "promotional" behind-the-scenes featurettes. There is a brief video on the make-up in the film, and interviews with the cast and crew, all shot in the same style. When the film was first released in Spain, Nacho and Co. created a viral, online game about an intern who was fired from the laboratory developing the time machine. While the game seems far too large in scope to sift through on the DVD (plus it's all in Spanish), there are a series of featurettes describing the game. It's hard to really get a sense of things from the videos, but they do provide a glimpse into what it was all about. Also included in the set is Nacho Vigalondo's Oscar-nominated short, 7:35 de la mañana. It's a funny piece of absurdist filmmaking worth watching. Lastly there is a photo gallery and some trailers.

Closing Statement

Timecrimes may, in some obvious ways, be similar to other time traveling movies out there, but it's also infinitely more accessible. The story is relatively linear and confined, the acting is solid, and Nacho Vigalondo's direction shows some excellent craftsmanship. If you're into puzzle films like Memento or Primer, you'll surely dig Timecrimes.

The Verdict

Héctor 1, not guilty. Héctor 2, guilty. Héctor 3, not guilty...

Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 93
Acting: 88
Story: 90
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

* English

Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurettes
* Interviews
* Short Film
* Photo Gallery

* IMDb