This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"We still have a while before it starts raining"
This is ScreeningNotes 2. I've come back from the future to warn you that ScreeningNotes 1 is totally going to spoil this movie for you. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie and clicked past the warning anyway, here's a spoiler-free review: if you liked the lo-fi time travel aesthetic of Primer then go watch this. It's good, I promise. Now get out of here before it's too late!
I'm no good at putting together complex storylines. So for me at least, one of the most important things about a movie like this is that, whether it's easy to follow or not, watching the puzzle pieces fall into place ought to be fun. I'm not going to care that you constructed an intricate time travel narrative which holds together on close inspection if it's boring. Timecrimes pulls this off effortlessly by maintaining a balance between suspense and resolution, between revealing new mysterious details and answering previous questions. Instead of relying on wordy exposition, it walks you through the ways Héctor has already predetermined his own future so that you discover them as he does. Of course it also helps that I have an inherent love for elliptical narratives.
There's a small problem with this strategy that even I ran into in my ineptitude. As Héctor 3 realizes that he's created this future for himself and that it's only going to get worse, he decides to try to cut off the chain of events at its source by killing Héctor 2 in his car. The problem I had here is that while he's driving the truck he doesn't realize that this is one of the ingredients which set Héctor 2 off on his journey to begin with. He's not going to cut off the cycle, he's going to ensure that it continues. Of course it has to happen that way for the movie to work, and maybe Héctor just doesn't think of it at the time (reasonable to assume considering he's generally a bit of an idiot), but I have to admit it briefly took me out of what was otherwise an engrossing experience.
What I really found interesting about the film is the way it touches on ideas explored by one of my favorite movies of all time, Memento. When Héctor 2 is reconstructing scenes from his memory for Héctor 1—scenes which, by the nature of time travel, were always already constructed to begin with—he enacts the basic truth that all our memories of the world around us are, in this sense, artificial. We remember some things but not others, and we remember these things the way we want to remember them. We construct around ourselves the memory of a world that fits our ideas about it. And of course the ultimate irony is that, like Héctor, the more we attempt to take control, the more we lose.
The story also functions as a traditional morality play, asking the question "How far will you go to maintain the illusion of your identity?" In order to get his life back, to return to being the one and only Héctor, our protagonist is brought to increasingly desperate extremes, from forcing the technician to turn the time machine on to killing an innocent woman. This also reveals the violent truth of his initial temptation in that first lusty, desiring look at the woman. In reducing her to the object of his gaze, he was damned from the beginning.
And of course there's just something perfect about the pink head bandage and massive black coat.
Timecrimes is a fascinating and effective low budget sci-fi thriller, and I highly expect to watch it again with my SO at some point in the near future. So as long as I don't come back in time and stab myself with a pair of scissors, you may return at some point to find this review altered by ScreeningNotes 2.