Time-travel nitpickers, stay away from Timecrimes. This lean, twisty Spanish thriller has no limit of plotholes and leaps of logic, careening over and over through a series of events that change each time a mysterious time machine gets involved. But anyone else who enjoys thrillers with a touch of sci-fi, Timecrimes is surprisingly well-crafted and fun, a short intellectual exercise about the perils of time travel with a few good startles thrown in to boot.
The film begins as prosaic as can be. Hector (Karra Elejalde) and his wife Clara (Candela Fernandez) are putting the finishing touches on their vacation home, and Hector is taking a break in the yard by birdwatching-- or, at least, peering into the woods with a pair of binoculars. What he sees instead is a bare-chested woman (Barbara Goenaga) , and when he goes into the woods to investigate, he finds the woman unconscious and naked. Seconds later he's stabbed in the arm by a man with bandages completely covering his face. Hector takes refuge at a mysterious research station, where he meets a young scientist (director Nacho Vigalondo) who instructs him to hide in a white pod filled with water.
When Hector emerges, it's daylight-- and the scientist doesn't even recognize him. When Hector eventually spies himself, sitting on his lawn with a pair of binoculars, he realizes he's traveled through time-- and must guarantee that his earlier self gets to the time travel station and rectifies the gap in the space-time continuum. But what about the man in the pink bandages? Can he help the naked girl?
It's best to leave the plot summary there, since the story takes so many twists-- some expected, some more surprising-- that it shouldn't be spoiled. Particularly sharp viewers may see them all coming, but for the rest of us there's a lot to enjoy, even if you think you have the whole thing pegged halfway through. Elejalde is an eminently relatable everyman, doing his best to muck through crazy circumstances, and Vigalondo-- who cast himself for no apparent reason-- still does well as the befuddled scientist.
There's no great message here, nor any revolutionary thought about time travel. Timecrimes is just a nifty little thriller, entertaining from start to finish, and just weird enough to seem unique. Though it probably won't see much of a theatrical release, down the road it'll be an ideal rental for someone looking for a quick thriller fix.