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Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…

Spain!

Hector sits in his backyard while his wife, Clara, works in their garden.  Spotting something in the woods behind his house, he peers through binoculars and sees a woman undressing.  This obviously requires a closer look, so when his wife leaves for the grocery store, he heads into the woods hoping for another glance of the stranger’s bountiful breasts.  He finds the unconscious and nude owner of those wondrous, fleshy orbs, but is soon attacked by a man with a bandaged face.  Hector runs for his life and ends up at a laboratory at the top of the hill where he meets a scientist who helps him elude the mad man.  Then everything goes to hell.

To reveal any more of Timecrimes‘ plot would be rude to those of you who haven’t seen the film yet, although to be honest, you’ll figure most of it for yourself pretty quickly anyway.  The events in the film are evenly divided into three categories… the ones that are entirely predictable, the ones that take you by surprise, and the ones that seem to make no sense whatsoever.  Some of the nonsensical actions become clear later on, even if they still seem absurdly out of place or character.  There is an element of time travel in the story, and as with most time travel movies, it’s a tricky endeavor making sure all loose ends and threads are tied up neatly without leaving plot holes or inconsistencies.  Unfortunately, like most other time travel stories, Timecrimes leaves at least one gaping hole behind when the end credits roll.  Even with that question mark though, the plot maintains a precarious balance of simplicity and complexity.

timecrimes2That balance is due to the talents of writer/director Nacho Vigalondo, who also stars as Chico, the scientist at the top of the hill.  Vigalondo starts with a simple conceit, and milks it with mild success for both terror and comedy.  The first third of the film captures the viewer’s interest with an intriguing, albeit slightly transparent setup, before losing it’s intensity due to some questionable acting and actions on the part of Hector, played by Karra Elajalde.  Scenes where Hector should be terrified and running for his life instead find him walking nonchalantly as if on a Sunday stroll.  Chased by the madman through the woods, Hector pauses behind a tree before glancing out with his binoculars.  Binoculars that limit the degree of your vision in the woods?  Binoculars to see a man less than fifty feet away?  (He does the same thing when he comes across the woman’s body… using binoculars when the very next shot reveals that he’s about twenty-five feet away from her!)  And Elajalde never convinces as a confused and terrified man caught up in something beyond his control.  He seems alternately put out by the events or bored by them.  Barbara Goenaga actually gives the best performance of the limited cast, and I’m not just saying that because of her lovely body.  She seems sincere and scared, although even her character behaves stupidly at various times.

There are little things that annoy as well like wounds that seem to ooze a foaming, frothy goo, or a minor head wound that not only requires the entire face be bandaged but that turns the entire bandage pink.  The ending is somewhat inevitable but still highly unsatisfying.  On the plus side, Vigalondo shows a talent for suspense in some of the early scenes, and small touches of comedy are well placed throughout the film.  The film is obviously low budget, but Vigalondo does wonders with his limited cast and locations to make it seems bigger than it is.  Timecrimes has (inexplicably) become a critical success, and that attention should lead to a bigger budget on Vigalondo’s next film.  I look forward to what he does with more money and better lead actors, as his initial story elements seemed strong.

Timecrimes was recently acquired for a US remake, with David Cronenberg possibly attached to direct.  I honestly don’t see enough material here worthy of a remake, but Hollywood has acted on lesser content before.  The film is currently in limited theatrical release as part of the Six Shooter Film Series from Magnet Releasing which also includes the vastly superior Let The Right One In.

The Upside: time travel plots are always interesting; Barbara Goenaga looks quite nice naked; for each step you figure out, the movie jumps ahead one more; unexpectedly funny at times.

The Downside: amateurish acting; poorly scripted at times; some serious plot holes; unsatisfying ending; even at 88 minutes the film drags a bit in the middle.

Grade: C+


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