Review: Time Lapse Attempts to Escape Genre Trap

Time Lapse provides an interesting twist on the time travel genre. Instead of actually travelling into the past or future, three friends discover a machine that takes pictures 24 hours into the future. At first, they use the pictures for personal gain, but it isn’t long before they lose control of the situation and circumstances spiral out of control. Yeah, that’s what usually happens in these movies. Very rarely is there a Back to the Future happy ending. More often than not, there’s a Butterfly Effect disastrous ending.

Time Lapse definitely goes the course of a Butterfly Effect, turning ugly fast. As we learn more about the characters, they’re not very likable. Finn (Matt O’Leary) is a creatively starved painter who seeks inspiration from the pictures. His roommate, Jasper (George Finn), is a gambler who seeks financial reward from the pictures. And Finn’s girlfriend, Callie (Danielle Panabaker) is a pawn between the two men who sort of represent “good” and “evil.” It’s not that blatant, but there’s an obvious moral divide between them that pulls Callie back and forth.

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Writer/director Bradley King does a great job with his first feature film. It’s compelling, entertaining and fast-moving. But it falls into the same trap as many time travel movies: there’s always a point where something just doesn’t make sense. You know, it’s the point where if you think about it too hard, your head is going to explode. You’ve got to just stop thinking and take what the plot gives you. Here, it’s the point where you wonder if the pictures are really telling the future, or if the friends are making the future they see in them.

Time Lapse tries to escape the trap by addressing the issue head on. The friends discuss it. What will happen if at 6:00 p.m. they’re not posed exactly the same as the pictures say they will be? For most of the movie, they believe they will simply cease to exist because acting on free will spin them into a new timeline. (See? Are you reaching for a bottle of aspirin yet?) Then, I suppose, it becomes a matter of fate or destiny. Do we really have the power to control our futures? Or, are our futures predetermined?

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It’s complicated, but that may because I’m making it complicated. You don’t have to get bogged down by all the theory since Time Lapse has enough twists and turns without the pictures from the future. That’s mainly because of the characters. For example, Finn is supposedly the good guy, but I liked him the least. Jasper is supposedly the bad guy, but I liked him the most. However, your feelings about them are likely to change over the course of the 104-minute running time. That means it’s a movie you can’t predict, and for me, that’s a good thing.

Great science fiction isn’t really about the science; it’s about the fiction. What I mean is that futuristic landscapes and technology are simply tools used to make us think about entirely human situations in a different light. So, at its core, Time Lapse isn’t about a machine that takes pictures of the future. It’s about human relationships. How far will people go when pushed to extreme circumstances? Will they remain loyal to their friends? Will they murder them to get what they want? With a few flaws, I wouldn’t call Time Lapse “great,” but it’s certainly good.

XLrator Media releases Time Lapse in theaters and on VOD today (May 15th).

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