Time Lapse full movie review - Make time to catch this sci-fi treat
A trio of young people stumble across a device than can beam back pictures of the future. As they start to experiment with the possibilities, the power grows beyond their control, and soon their relationships will be stretched to breaking point.
Not to mention, the possibility of vanishing in a puff of causality.
Talented but mojo-less artist Finn, his seemingly innocent girlfriend Callie and his slacker friend Jasper share an apartment, with Finn doubling as the janitor for the block. When they notice that the mysterious old man that lives across the way hasn't been seen in weeks, they search his apartment, to find a huge machine that looks like somewhat like a 19th century industrial sewing machine mated to a cinema projector. It takes a picture at 8pm each night, but they soon discover that the image shows not what is happening through the lens now, but what is going to happen at that point 24 hours into the future.
Initially, they play around with this cool new toy, but it's not long before gambler Jasper sees the money-making potential of the thing - transmitting tomorrow's race results back to his present self. Finn also drinks the Kool-Aid, sending back pictures of inspired artwork for himself to paint. Callie appears to be just along for the ride, but we find out she has an agenda of her own for using it. It's no secret to the audience that Callie, Finn and Jasper are in something of a love triangle, and it is this coming to boil that really helps drive the movie.
As the film progresses and we understand the not-too-difficult logic behind how the game works, we realise that the time travelling pictures are just a means to ask a larger philosophical question: Can we change the future? Do we really have free will? If someone tells you that your best friend is going to kill you tomorrow, is there anything you can do to change it? The protagonists quickly find themselves, effectively, enslaved by the prophecies that the machine is dishing out, too afraid to do anything other than what it says. It's a very effective piece of filmmaking, and with a slight retuning, this could have been a horror movie.
The film's real strength is its tight, well thought out screenplay. Sure, the basic idea has been done before in various books and TV shows, but it's the way that it plays out through the actions of three young adults that makes it novel. They're slightly immature and can do dumb things, just like regular people, and that's what makes the movie work.
Only a few times did I feel that there were slight gaps in logic. They figure out what the machine does and how to use it a bit too quickly. There are also a few times when it falls into slasher movie clichés with gunplay and knifeplay, but they're forgivable.
Most interesting is the unusual main character, Finn. He's quiet, cerebral and artsy, and is anti-confrontation and pro-forgiveness to the point where people are walking all over him to a crazy extent. He's not your average blue collar protagonist.
I do have one main criticism of this movie (major spoilers ahead - ) it spends a heck of a lot of time on the "bad bookie" subplot only to kill him off at the end of the second act. In the A - B - C structure of a typical plot, this guy was essentially just a hyphen. The rent-a-cop guy and the female friend of the old man arguably affected the plot more, both with a fraction of the screen time.
The ending was a bit awkwardly handled too, and it didn't need Callie's flashback to make it absolutely clear to the audience what had happened. I was reminded of Unbreakable, in a bad way. However, it compensates for this with one great, last-shot twist that evokes memories of the Twilight Zone.
Minor points aside, this was a great and very entertaining sci-fi film. I would rate it above both the broadly similar "Primer" (too clever for me: I still don't understand it) and "Safety Not Guaranteed" (too inoffensive, and obviously designed by committee.) Also, a shout out to poor John Rhys-Davies, whose scenes were all cut. That must have made for some awkward moments at the premiere.