Timecrimes is a 2007 Spanish horror film with a bleak time-loop narrative. The film follows a man who, trying to save a woman in distress, comes into contact with a knife wielding man whose face is covered in bandages. His encounter with the bandaged man leads him to a scientist and a time travel machine, which allows the man to travel back in time before he encountered the bandaged man.
A series of events where the man desperately tries to stop the events happening again leads to the discovery that the bandaged man is in fact himself from the future. The film certainly plays with the mind and offers a fresh take on the genre. Director Nacho Vigalondo cleverly creates a twisted thriller using time travel as a fun way to subvert the horror narrative.
4. Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow was the surprise hit of 2014. Few saw it coming. Based on the popular Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, the film takes the Groundhog Day concept and transplants it to the alien invasion genre. Tom Cruise is Major William Cage, a privileged man who avoids combat at all costs. So when he finds himself dropped into the frontline of the alien invasion he is understandably out of his depth.
Equipped with a mech suit he doesn’t know how to operate and very little combat training Cage is killed on his first assault. However, as he dies he consumes some of the blood of a special kind of alien and is henceforward able to repeat the same day over and over again, unfortunately prompted by his own death.
Cage’s aim is to train, become the ultimate warrior and stop the aliens and simultaneously free himself from the loop. The film works on several levels: exhilarating action, brilliant design, a great character arc and a video game narrative style that provides endless entertainment. This is well and truly the Groundhog Day concept in big budget form and it is a science fiction delight to boot.
Primer is the ridiculously smart time travel indie form director Shane Caruth. The time travel of the film works as thus: a human sized box is activated, the person who activates it then hides out for the next 6 hours after which they enter the box and wait another 6 hours. After the 6 hours are up they leave the box at the exact moment the box was originally activated, equipped with the knowledge of everything that happens 6 hours in the future.
The two main characters, Aaron (Shane Caruth) and Abe (David Sullivan), the two engineers that created the time travelling box, use their invention to manipulate stock markets and save the life of Abe’s girlfriend. As Aaron becomes more and more corrupted by the power of the box the two part ways. In the end the film hints that Aaron is developing the time travel devise into something much larger. This gritty take on the perils of time travel is so realistic and based in science it is an absolute must watch for sci-fi fans everywhere.
2. Run Lola Run
A modern classic of German cinema, Run Lola Run is a kinetic and colorful take on the narrative mode in discussion. The film follows Lola (Franka Potente), a young woman living in Berlin with her petty criminal boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). When Manni looses a large sum of money he is supposed to deliver to his crime boss his life is put at risk, it is up to Lola to find the money before Manni is either killed or robs a supermarket and is most likely arrested. From this point on the film is split into three as Lola repeats the same 20 minutes of her day. In each sequence Lola attempts, slightly differently, to save Manni.
The first attempt leaves Lola dead and Manni arrested. The second attempt leaves Manni dead and makes a bank robber out of Lola. In her third and final attempt, Manni manages to retrieve his lost money and pay his boss, whilst Lola makes more money than Manni needed in a casino leaving them both stinking rich. With each run Lola makes tiny details play out differently causing a butterfly affect that changes not only the things that happen in each sequence, but in the future beyond the narrative of the film.
1. Groundhog Day
Of course this list wouldn’t really exist without Groundhog Day. It is considered the seminal text to use the “repeating day” narrative.
The film depicts the story of pessimistic and obnoxious weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) as he finds himself stuck in a continuous loop on Groundhog Day in a small town in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. At first Phil is baffled, then angered and even tries to kill himself until eventually he embraces his bizarre circumstances and makes the most of it. He becomes a brilliant pianist, a local hero, a connoisseur of fine poetry, an expert ice-sculptor and even learns to speak French fluently.
However, of all of Phil’s accomplishments the most important was learning how to become a good person and fall in love. It is a heartwarming film, full of so many fun moments, Bill Murray at his best and, whilst it starts in a hilarious but cynical place, by the end the warmth is enough to melt the snow of any blizzard.
Author Bio: A movie lover from England with a passion for writing about cinema. Luke’s movie watching career has taken him from watching Jackie Chan movies on school nights to graduating with a masters degree in film studies.