no critical faculties’ violations of causality: timecrimes

A middle-aged schlub reclines on a lawn chair, peering, through a pair of binoculars, into the woods behind his new home. He catches a glimpse of a woman removing her shirt and then, when his wife leaves him alone, decides to go get a closer look.

So male gaze alert, I guess.

He finds a pile of clothes, and then the woman, nude and unconscious. Approaching her, he’s assaulted by a man with a bandaged face. Fleeing, he stumbles into a time machine, finding himself roughly an hour in the past. Suddenly, you find yourself knowing exactly where this movie is going.

Warned about causality by the machine’s operator, our lead stumbles around in ways less-than-ideal, until he realizes that his bumbling has put him into an ideal place to ensure the sequence of events that led to this whole mess, which is to say he finally catches up with the audience. It’s in the awkward desperation of his efforts that the movie hits its stride, even as the plot mechanics tend toward the predictable.  There’s something thorny in there, about middle-aged, or any aged, men’s libidos, in the lead’s awkward desperation as he victimizes the young woman he previously spied on to preserve the timeline and, finally, his coldness as he sacrifices her entirely. At first it seems, when he is stabbed, as if he has been punished for his curiosity and, later, as the whole mess spirals in on itself, as if he, and his wife, pay a larger price indeed. But ultimately he isn’t the one that pays. Rather, the young woman he spied on becomes the innocent victim of all this nonsense. The progression of his character is toward colder, more assured manipulation of the unwitting girl.  It’s there, but it seems remote, intellectual, the whole exercise a little too discreet and tidy.

Typical of time travel fiction, it amounts to a mechanical exercise, a series of gears slipping into the proper position to keep the overlapping plot running smoothly. Following the lead’s final trip through the machine, it reduces to a sort of preordained thriller: the pacing picks up, but there’s no real excitement, just curiosity as to precisely how it will mesh together, a slight stirring at a clever reversal of a previous gotcha moment soon made flat as you have to watch the mechanics of the reversal play their slow way out. It’s a logic puzzle: diverting, clever, but too self-contained, without emotional resonance.

Really, very OK.

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~ by ironcupshrug on 03/12/2010.

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