It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be available for streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday.
This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: Timecrimes” (2007)
“Timecrimes” is one of those movies where it seems like giving away anything at all is giving away too much. I’ve included the trailer below out of habit, but if you’d rather not have the film’s twist(s) spoiled, you should avoid it as well as the synopses on Netflix and elsewhere. Even most reviews seem to reveal too much. However, this isn’t an M. Night Shyamalan movie. That is to say spoiling the twist won’t spoil the whole thing. It’s revealed fairly early on and it’s not the only thing the film has going for it.
Here’s what I will say: “Timecrimes” is a Spanish thriller based around time travel. Contrary to many films built on the same idea, “Timecrimes” is extremely low-budget. There is no CGI, one location, and only four speaking roles (one of which is held by writer/director Nacho Vigalondo). Perhaps the film’s most important contrast to its many peers is that the time travel elements do not become convoluted or confusing. “Timecrimes” makes up for its inherent bare bones-ness by maintaining a constant state of tension and forward movement—much like Hector, the main character, the audience has no time to stop and think.
Let’s talk about Hector (Karra Elejalde) then. He’s a middle-aged man in the midst of renovating his home in the Spanish countryside, where he lives with his wife, Clara (Candela Fernández). Hector’s spending his Saturday relaxing in the backyard, looking out into the woods beyond his property through binoculars. There he spies an attractive young woman (Bárbara Goenaga) undressing. His wife leaves to go shopping, and Hector decides to be lead investigator in case of the naked lady. When he finds her, she appears dead, and he’s stabbed by her apparent killer, a mysterious man whose face is wrapped in a pink bandage. Hector runs, ending up in the lab of a scientist played by Vigalondo. Soon after, the scientist convinces Hector to hide from his persuer in a large mechanical device. It’s night time when he gets in, but when he steps out just a few moments later, the sun is shining. Hector has traveled back in time by an hour and a half. And that’s when things really start to get interesting.
The film isn’t exactly a character study, so neither Hector or the rest of the parts are incredibly deep. But in the case of “Timecrimes,” that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes Hector into something of an everyman, which allows the audience to wonder just what they would do if placed in his situation: getting sent back in time after being chased through the woods by a pink-bandaged bandit.
The film is getting an English-language remake, which is ironically humorous for reasons that will become clear once you’ve watched it (if you don’t understand what I mean by then, check out Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe’s review). The project was originally in the hands of David Cronenberg, but has since been shifted from United Artists to Dreamworks with Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” “Gangs of New York,” “Moneyball”) attached to write, produce, and perhaps even direct.
Like I said, there’s not much more I can say about “Timecrimes” without feeling that I’ve given away too much. I promise it’s an exciting, well thought out thriller. If you don’t believe me, take its 87 percent rating on the Tomatometer as proof. The film’s virtues more than make up for its flaws and it’s a better way to spend 90 minutes on a Saturday night than looking at the woods in your backyard through binoculars. Enjoy!
Check out the trailer below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.