Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


I hate to admit it, but the title of this film really put me off.

Well I mean, it sounds a bit smug.

Indeed, the opening scenes don't do much to win over the "sci-fi" viewer. The credits confuse time travel with space, the otherwise excellent cast display little rapport with each other and, it has to be said, even the picture quality is quite lousy.

But you know what? The film overcame all of that.

When done properly, a good time travel caper is usually quite complex, and as such this one, for the most part, is pretty well worked out.

At the pub, Ray (Chris O'Dowd), Pete (Dean Lennox Kelly) and Toby (Marc Wootton) discover a time portal in the gents, which keeps depositing them at various different points in the bar's history. (no-one else uses the toilet in maybe 80 years - whew!)

As the title promises, the situations that they find themselves in are fairly standard, but that's not really a bad thing. I like seeing stories in which characters avoid their younger selves, see their older selves die, and pit their own free will against their own free will. If it's funny, so much the better.

Fortunately then, this script is both clever and snappy, making the whole thing feel a lot like Red Dwarf in both substance and tone.

A little bleakly however, the low budget and vague picture make it feel most like Red Dwarf: Back To Earth, which is perhaps not the best era to pitch-in with.

Most time travel movies are, as I think the characters point out, usually very poorly plotted, so I tend to go quite easy on reviewing them. Here however Jamie Mathieson's script plainly invites you to analyse it in-depth, which is ironic as this time I can't really be bothered.

I mean sure, Cassie (Anna Faris) never explains quite why she returns to the bar the first time, Pete never realises that he can save his life by just avoiding this pub forever (or at the very least shaving regularly), and they all hide from their previous selves in a cupboard rather than, um, anywhere else on the planet, but on the whole I enjoyed this too much to complain.

Oh all right then - evil Millie (Meredith MacNeill) is supposed to have come back in time to kill our heroes and change history, yet she first meets them next to their memorial. She has not changed history yet, so that memorial cannot be a part of history yet.

The only way I can reconcile this is to suppose that as soon as Millie enters history to change it, she immediately becomes subject to the sum of all her other interference too.

Bearing this in mind, it would also make more sense if she met our heroes in reverse order, killing them first, before nipping forward in time - into the lads' past - to set the event up in what would now be her own unchangeable history afterwards. This would explain why she doesn't simply accompany them back to the present and then just kill them straight away.

This would also be consistent with Ray, Pete and Toby being unable to alter any events themselves, either because they take place within their own personal history, or because they are simply not trying hard enough.

If this is the intended sequence of events however, it doesn't seem to be signposted anywhere, unless I missed something? (common with time travel flicks, and part of the reason why they are so much fun to think about!)

Speaking of earlier versions of history, I don't know the movie's origins, but the whole story has the feel of a filmed stage-play, specifically pub theatre, featuring as it does such a tiny laddish cast, centred almost entirely in the same place. Their hiding in the cupboard would make more sense on a stage too, as would their near misses with themselves. But hey - that's writing for a low budget for you.

Despite literally making a song and dance about it, Pete never washes his hands after going to the toilet. Either time.

Aside from all the pointless swearing (which sadly reduces this film's potential audience quite significantly - sorry kids) the only real disaster here is the final ten minutes, which surely cannot have come from the same mind as the meticulously worked out preceding 70.

After Toby's earlier dig at Hollywood "Story is king!", the convenient rewinding of time, together with our heroes' impossible memories of events that have no longer happened to them, seems either hypocritical or parodic.

How can the piece of paper remain drenched if Toby's pint was never tipped over it?

This is quickly made worse by Ray's sudden two year relationship with Cassie, without any clear explanation of how. Are those years in Ray's future? Are they in a new past, in which case why can he not remember them, and why is his present still the same? Did they somehow happen with the dead Ray in the parallel universe, which seems to be the source of several other unexplained punchlines?

We've just spent 80 minutes watching unexplained things happen and then get resolved, so how is having a few more unexplained things happen - which never get resolved - supposed to cap it all? Not so much complicated, more incomplete.

Most disappointingly of all, the story proper concludes with our heroes spending the rest of their lives in enforced mediocrity. Though they don't die, they do still lose.

Despite all this, the cast continue to play the whole thing with tremendous conviction. The whole story is quite ridiculous, but each of the main players conveys their journey from disbelief of events through acceptance and beyond with 100% believability, empowered to do so by such finely-honed dialogue.

This film's greatest accomplishment though must lie in the attitude of the evil editors from the future. They routinely nip back in time to erase history for aesthetic reasons, something which I'm a bit adept at meself. You see, I'm always watching movies off of tape, and then going over them with other stuff.

But you know what? I'm actually going to keep this one, which proves that our four heroes succeeded.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I even watched it again a week later, and then re-edited this review!

Now who sounds a bit smug?

;)

Available here.

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