Someone wrote to recommend this to me based on my love of Butterfly Effect and such cheese-o-tastic mind-benders, and it's a good thing they did because as far as my taste is concerned, it was a DIRECT HIT!
So this guy Hector drives home and from only a few minutes in we see that he has a testy relationship to his wife. She never hears what he has to say, and doesn't seem very interested in it. For example, at one point she's gardening and can't hear him over the spraying hose in her hand--yet she won't turn off the hose. This is where you have to love European movies [this film is Spanish] because they trust you to pick up on small small details and include characterization throughout--as opposed to American films that stop everything to try to slot in the characterization after the introductions but before the action sequences. Here it's consistent and it's not called out. Another thing I was admiring about it was how it was generating such an eerie tone of menace simply through direction, editing and sound design--you know, filmmaking skill--despite the fact that plot-wise, almost nothing was happening.
One thing I'll tell you that although this movie was excellently dubbed, it was so jarring to hear these very suburban, nasal American voices coming out of these obviously European characters in this European setting, making the original audio and subtitles kind of a necessity.
So Hector sits down and thinks he sees something in the woods. He uses his binoculars and sees a young woman out there, and she soon removes her shirt. He goes into the woods to investigate, and sees her sitting nude by a rock. He ascertains that she is dead, and is just starting to get freaked out when a figure with his head wrapped in bandages stabs him in the arm!
Hector runs and happens upon a lab. There he makes radio contact with a man in the big lab at the top of the hill. The guy on the hill can see the bandaged guy coming, and suggests that Hector run up to the lab and hide with him. He does, runs up and meets the guy in this high-tech lab, who seems quite eager to get him to jump into this giant contraption. It's creepy. Finally Hector jumps in, it closes, there's a flash of light, and he comes right out--and now it's daylight outside. He goes outside, and, using his binoculars, looks down toward his house. He sees himself, in his lawn chair, looking into the woods. He has traveled one hour back in time.
Now this movie is kind of a mindfuck, and a nice, slow, sensual, mutually-satisfying mindfuck that will push your limits while also meeting your needs, so if you think you want to watch it, I advise you to skip past the spoilers.
SPOILERS > > >
So Hector freaks--there's that impostor down there with his wife! The movie is good with establishing Hector as the dim bulb that couldn't fully conceptualize that the guy down there is truly HIM. So he runs down in order to save his wife from the stranger. He gets in a car. He swerves to avoid the girl he saw, now just going into the woods, and gets hit by a van and driven into a tree. His face bloodied, he wraps it up in bandages and proceeds on foot. Around now you figure out that the masked assailant stalking him is HIMSELF, one hour separated in time.
So begins this separate looping timeline within the first, where many of the incidents from the first loop are explained by Hector's actions in the second. But not all of them--and eventually Hector learns that he has ALREADY gone through a third time. And what's more, he called the lab assistant from the third timeline and told him NOT to let him go through, since what he was trying to do failed. But since he already HAS gone through, although it hasn't happened yet, they know that it WILL happen. You see what I'm saying about the mindfuck part?
< < < SPOILERS END
That's all I'm going to tell you. I have to protect you from yourself. I will say, however, that one might think that all the intrigue was generated in the first loop and the rest of the movie would just be a steady winding down of those events. So it's a pleasant suprise to discover that the last third has a new wrinkle in store, and executes itself with a rather ingenious and thoughtful twist.
Along the way the movie has a nice development of character which proceeds convincingly yet absolutely without overt comment, which is that Hector comes to learn how much he truly cares about his wife and what he is willing to do to protect that relationship. While you're watching the marital tension at the beginning, you may be thinking that it's just seasoning salt on the film, and for a while it doesn't look like it's going to go anywhere. So one later admires how it slowly moves to become the main theme of the film, and the center all of the events revolve around.
I read a few reviews on IMDb and many of them talk about plot holes, but to me, it all seemed very tight, and things that one noticed the first loop are explained on the second loop, and so on. Ultimately I don’t know how it all resolves at the end [are there going to be three Hectors?], but it all seems, on one viewing, to match everything up, and that goes a long way toward quieting those internal voices that want everything to make perfect sense. For example, compare this to Inception, where I stopped believing that any of it made any sense and furthermore didn’t care to find out.
Anyway, if you like time-travel movies, this is a great one, with lots of little twists and mind-blowers--in addition to good performances and an unexpected little storyline about Hector’s wife--that is totally fun and entertaining. In fact, I can’t remember being so wrapped up and into a movie in quite some time. This was just pure, not-totally-dumb-but-not-too-serious fun. The required American remake is on the way.
Yes! It’s a total blast, especially if you like sci-fi and time-travel mind-benders.