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'Timecrimes' Messes With Space-Time, But Modestly

Karra Elejalde as Hector i

Where do I begin? Hector (Karra Elejalde) has to escape from himself after stumbling into a time machine. Magnet Releasing hide caption

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Karra Elejalde as Hector

Where do I begin? Hector (Karra Elejalde) has to escape from himself after stumbling into a time machine.

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Timecrimes

  • Director: Nacho Vigalondo
  • Genre: Sci-fi brain-teaser
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Rated R: nudity, violence

Chico explains time travel i

You are here: The scientist Chico (Nacho Vigalondo) hides Hector in his time machine. Magnet Releasing hide caption

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Chico explains time travel

You are here: The scientist Chico (Nacho Vigalondo) hides Hector in his time machine.

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The Masked Man i

Running with scissors: Hector is attacked by a masked man in the woods near his house. Magnet Releasing hide caption

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The Masked Man

Running with scissors: Hector is attacked by a masked man in the woods near his house.

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Watch Clips

'Hector Runs From The Masked Man'

'Hector Finds The Time Machine'

'The Masked Man'

Ever have one of those days when you're just trying to relax, but you keep being bothered by other versions of yourself who have traveled a short distance backward in time?

Wait a minute. That question may divulge too much about the plot of Timecrimes, a low-budget puzzler from Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo. Let's backtrack a few seconds and try again.

Have you ever found the ideal country retreat, seemingly free of annoying neighbors, only to discover that the nearest structure is a research lab containing a pesky time machine?

While that query reveals a little less, it's just impossible to discuss Timecrimes without acknowledging what the movie's title suggests: This is a movie in which people mess with time. The good news is that the story's "crimes" provide forward motion even after the basic predicament is established.

Not counting doppelgangers, the story features only four characters. Hector (Karra Elejalde) and Clara (Candela Fernandez) have a new house in a bucolic setting. As Clara works in the garden, Hector investigates some mysterious activities on the other side of the nearby security fence.

Observing the nearby forest through binoculars, Hector sees an attractive young bicyclist (Barbara Goenaga) start to remove her clothes. When he moves closer to the woman, he discovers that she's been knocked out cold. Before he can help, Hector is attacked by a man whose face is hidden.

Hector escapes, taking refuge in a lab where a scientist (played stiffly by the director) offers a hiding place. When Hector emerges, he's in the exact same place — but not the exact same time. And is this the first time he's made the backward trip?

If in essence slight and silly, Timecrimes neatly balances a Twilight Zone plot with an art-film sense of disassociation. The movie works as a thriller, and it packs several creepy surprises. (The violence is sometimes rough and a little misogynistic; the attractive bicyclist is misused not once but twice.)

Yet the film also challenges perceptions and assumptions as it replays scenes from a different perspective.

The movie's credibility owes much to Elejalde, who has the demeanor of a silent-cinema clown. His Hector greets each impossible situation as something to be handled, not questioned, which helps viewers accept events, too.

The film's modest scale also benefits the story's absurdities, which would only be amplified by a larger budget. A Hollywood remake is planned, but Timecrimes is probably best just the way Vigalondo made it: four actors, one location and potentially uncountable cracks in the space-time continuum.

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