Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport and get your shots, because this week we’re heading to…
Who doesn’t love a good time travel flick? Hitler, that’s who. Time travel is one of the most entertaining plot devices available because it opens up so many different story directions. From the sci-fi/action of The Terminator to the comedy of Back to the Future to the musical numbers of A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court to the suspense of Time After Time, the possibilities are endless! And since science fiction is as much about ideas as anything else, you don’t always have to have a substantial budget just because you’re working within the genre… which is good news for this week’s foreign film, since this British production apparently had no budget whatsoever.
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel takes place almost exclusively in a London pub. Ray, Pete, and Toby head there one evening to help drown Ray’s sorrows over a recently lost job. As the beers continue to flow the banter turns to Hollywood movies, time travel, and talking dinosaurs, and soon Ray (Chris O’Dowd) is heading back to the bar for more libations. A young woman named Cassie (Anna Faris) calls out his name and introduces herself as a time traveler from the future. She’s there to repair time leaks, but didn’t want to pass up the chance to meet “Ray the Great.” Believing his friends have put her up to it, Ray chats with her then heads back to his table. His buddies deny any involvement and think he’s kidding until Pete heads to the loo and returns to find a pub filled with bloodied corpses strewn about the floor… and a dead Pete laying in the middle of it all. Now the three friends find themselves lost in time (albeit also lost in a pub) and struggling to find their way home.
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel is a fun little movie that would never have found a home in US theaters. (I’m not even sure it ran in UK theaters.) It’s closer to Shane Carruth’s indie Sundance winner Primer than it is to Terry Gilliam’s masterful Twelve Monkeys, but it adds a substantial amount of humor to a twisty tale of time travel run amok. The three leads are all charismatic enough that none of them end up left out, but O’Dowd (“The IT Crowd”) is definitely the one to watch. He’s a bit gangly, and he holds his pints in a peculiar way, but I could easily see him as a leading man in romantic comedies.
Writer Jamie Mathieson shows a smart ear for dialogue and cultural references, but the film’s budget allows him to only hint at some of the grander events at work here. Pete reappears at one point all haggard and covered in feces… “They won’t attack you if you wear their scent,” he says, but we never really get much more than that. There are only a few exterior shots (like the one below), but again they only serve to tease at the possibilities. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as the movie is forced to focus on dialogue and comedy, but some bigger set pieces would be appreciated. Director Garreth Carrivick does manage to build some tension and suspense in at least one scene, so the pieces are there for something much more memorable… it just needed an influx of cash.
Obvious budgetary limitations aside, this is a funny flick with three equally entertaining leads. From a call to stop using the derogatory N-word (nerds) in favor of “imagineers” to a letter Toby writes Hollywood pointing out the error of their ways “remakes, Jude Law, Han shot first, more Firefly and/or Serenity, the end,” the dialogue is filled with sharp and witty banter. After Ray suggests to Cassie the possibility of going back in time to kill Hitler she tells him that’s considered a timecrime and that rogue “editors” travel through time attempting to do just such a thing. “There’s even one bunch of editors who try to kill artists immediately after their greatest works,” she tells him, “to avoid a decline in quality. It’d be like killing say, Kevin Costner right after Dances With Wolves.”
The movie sets itself up nicely for a sequel of sorts if there’s enough of a response from fans, and I for one would love for that to happen. While I enjoyed this movie for the low-budget affair that it is, I’d like to see a follow-up featuring the same creative team but coupled with a relatively substantial budget increase. The characters are fun and engaging, the direction manages a nice balance between the humor and the action (although more $ would offer more action), and you leave the movie entertained and interested in seeing these people again. That’s a major accomplishment for any movie regardless of the budget.
FAQ About Time Travel is currently only available on import DVD.
The Upside: Some very funny dialogue including multiple bits riffing on the sci-fi science fiction genre; the three leads, O’Dowd in particular, are enjoyable and charismatic
The Downside: Low budget hurts visual side of things when it comes to exteriors and effects; as with just about every movie about time travel there are a few gaps in logic; pop culture references could stand to be updated
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