After the disappearance of a young scientist on a business trip, his son and wife struggle to cope, only to make a bizarre discovery years later - one that may bring him home.
04 Feb Continuum (2013)
I think I would like to warn you off of this one.
The opportunity that time travel stories offers is the ability to retroactively change what you have seen.
In normal stories, this is one of the most effective devices we have, a way for the author to toy with the very act of comprehending the world. It can be cast as a game between author and viewer as they co-create the story and tease each other. Time machine movies make that explicit. Con and deceptive movies also do this, make the game an explicit part of the contract.
But for it to work, the force of what changes has to be strong enough to be accepted by the viewer, provide enough energy to drive the reinvention of what we have already accepted. Chris Nolan is a master of this; I‘ll trust him explicitly, investing more in what he offers as the setup than in anyone else. Many time travel movies get this.
Looper, Primer and Predestination are movies that don’t exploit this, presenting puzzles that are intriguing but use travel of the old fashioned kind, the H G Welles kind the we simply watch. But this film depends on the reinvention; the characters talk about it for an hour.
A man is a genius college professor. He has a greater genius son, also a professor, who figures out time travel. Alas, it involves coils, a cabinet and a flash of light. He gets incidentally killed on his first trip back. Those that are left are unhappy with their lives. His son is the greatest genius of the bunch and reinvents the machine to go back to change things, but only a few things.
The last five minutes is what this genius comes up with, when he goes back in time to meet his newly arrived Dad. If you are like me, someone who expects some narrative magic, who wants that thrill you get on first watching The Sting or Sixth Sense, you will be disappointed and a bit angry.
Much else in this film is done well. The score in particular is good.
You‘ll get hints of the disappointment. A lone genius poring over an equation-laden chalkboard looking for that one insignificant error, as if it were the point of the movie, Poirot-style. Some poorly researched mumbo jumbo about relativity and quantum mechanics as if they were the solution to a next generation of understanding rather than barriers. A final revelation that produces absolute confidence. Simple interpersonal dynamics, the kind you can sketch on a timeline without missing anything essential. (That timeline is actually a prop in the story.)
And then we get the end, the action our genius among genies has calculated with similar precision.
But it makes no sense. I usually don’t need or even want sense in a film, but you need it here if you expect us to reweave things. And we don’t get it.
Posted in 2016
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.