This is a first time feature length film from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo. He did receive an 2005 Oscar nomination for a short film but who in the hell ever watches shorts? He also wrote the script and plays in his first feature as well. Actually there are only four actors in the entire film, two men and two women (and a credited double so technically five). The low budget film also takes on the daunting subject matter of time travel. So what can happen when you have a new director's first time full-length movie in Spanish about time travel and a cast of only four actors? You get Los Cronocrimenes (Time Crimes) and it is a pretty damned good movie. Devoid of flashy effects and technical gimmickry and gory mutilations the movie takes a pretty simple premise and runs with it at a good pace from start to finish and simply uses a good script and good direction to get the job done.
What makes the time travel subject matter here a little more interesting than some similarly themed films is that the protagonist (and paradoxically the antagonist as well) Hector (Karra Elejalda) only goes back in time a couple hours and therefore the drama centers around him trying to alter a series of events that he himself set into motion. To further complicate matters he goes back in time a second time even and therefore there are three Hectors, two of them trying to alter the actions of the other in the past and the last one becoming aware little by little of what is happening.
The film does not get too technical and yet is still fairly plausible requiring only moderate suspension of disbelief. The time travel machine is nothing fancy and there are no low budget CGI effects to muck it all up. Reviews online discuss the absence of major loop holes that are typical of time travel films. I however did have a problem with one line of logic and while scanning the film a second time for vidcaps I tried to solve the problem but was unable to. If you see the film, and I recommend it highly, maybe you can get back and explain to me how the original Hector, before anyone traveled back in time, wound up in the time machine in the first place. I can see no reason for it. I can see why the Hector we are introduced to winds up in the machine as he flees the second masked Hector, who would actually be the original Hector, I guess, but how did the original Hector, before he was being chased by himself, get into the laboratory with the machine and why did he get in it in the first place?
Sometimes something like that can ruin a film for me but in this case it did not. The acting for a low budget film is great as Hector retraces his steps from only a short time in the past and he must figure out ways to outsmart himself and prevent a tragedy he perpetrates unwittingly. The way things are resolved is excellent really though some people may not like the downbeat low key ending. Vigalondo plays the roles of the scientist Chico who is juggling the various Hectors around in time and trying to keep each one’s motives a secret from the others. Barbara Goenaqa plays Chica, an innocent and assisting passerby who gets caught up in Hector's quandary and becomes the focal point of his plans to undo the “crime” that is committed, but to undo one he must commit another. She is convincing and beautiful and is kind enough to just lie around naked or in her panties for a good portion of the time.
Other than the one plot glitch I mentioned, and maybe I missed something, it is a believable film that is well shot and well acted. The music score is helpful and not distracting. It has the qualities of a well thought out independent movie and, if these things matter to you, it was well received at various film festivals but usually that does not matter much to me. I like what I like and vise versa regardless of awards or box office statistics. Karra Elejarda is really great as the bewildered and desperate, though ultimately quick thinking and methodical, Hector. He looks so everyday with his bad complexion and potbelly. If you do not mind subtitles (some people do you know) I recommend this one and it even gets a whopping 3 1/2 skulls from persnickety lil' me. Most likely one I will watch at least once more.