I loved this little science fiction movie. Not because it’s perfect. It isn’t; by the end I could hardly follow it. But, oddly enough, that was part of its charm. It took a common SF idea and followed it to its logical conclusion, which was chaos.
You need to understand a few things before you’ll understand just why and how much I admired this film.
It was made for $7000.
The director, Shane Carruth, was also the producer, writer, cinematographer, editor, composer and star. He had never made a movie before; he is an engineer. He made most of it in one take, using his friends as actors who doubled as crew. His parents catered. This is a movie literally cobbled together from found objects.
None of this shows. Aside from the inevitable graininess from shooting in Super 16mm, it all looks very professional. The lighting, the camera moves, the editing, all are sharp and well-composed.
Now to the story. Most SF films are really nothing but action-adventure-thrillers tricked out with some SF clothes. Brains are seldom in evidence. More often than not, if there is an interesting idea, they blow it big time. Here, we have some very smart guys building computer stuff in their garage, like Steve Jobs, and they end up building something they don’t really understand at first. Turns out it’s a time machine. This is all absolutely believable. The dialogue is swimming in tech jargon, I believe that guys like this would stumble on the greatest invention of all time, and understand it when they do. Sort of. I mean, at first all they want to do is use it to get rich. Find out what stock is going to go up and buy it. But then, as time travel stories always do, things get complicated …
Most SF movies spoon-feed you the “tough” ideas. Somebody explains things to somebody else. Some sexy graphics are trotted out to put it in terms a kindergartner couldn’t miss. These guys give you nothing. You are expected to figure it out yourself. This is a brave approach, I love them for doing it that way. For the first hour (and it runs only 78 minutes), I am with them. Then … hell, I got very confused, and I do this for a living! And when it was over, I was at sea. I admit it, I couldn’t figure it all out.
Repeated viewings would probably reveal more, but I don’t want to. A lot of people are going to dislike this movie because of this, and I understand that. But should every movie have a neat, pat resolution? Isn’t the universe full of mystery? It sure is where time travel is concerned. I think the movie could have been better, but I’m not complaining. At least these guys tried.