(2007)3.5Derek ArmstrongRarely has a time-travel thriller relied on little more than its own narrative cleverness to be so utterly satisfying. Nacho Vigalondo's Timecrimes isn't high-tech, it has almost no budget to speak of, it's not intensive on acting or character development, and it occurs in basically one location. Yet it's still a spine-tingling, mind-blowing examination of the conundrums of time travel, because it concentrates on those conundrums in and of themselves, presenting them with exquisite simplicity and clarity. Timecrimes avoids the pitfalls of Primer, the similarly low-budget time-bender that muddles its own logic at every turn. Instead, this film follows a clear linear path through a nonlinear timeline, sprinkling the experience with little "aha!" moments that the viewer can savor. It's like a puzzle set at medium difficulty level: challenging enough to give viewers the satisfaction of exercising their intellect, but not so tricky that it risks alienating them. Because Vigalondo follows the present-tense perspective of his befuddled protagonist, Hector (Karra Elejalde), at all times, the viewer puts together the puzzle at the same pace Hector does. Occurrences that seemed arbitrary start to make more sense, slowly but surely. What's brilliant is how Vigalondo addresses the role of will power in causation. Knowing what will happen usually gives a person the power to alter the outcome, but Hector sometimes uses his knowledge specifically to ensure that events transpire the same way. After all, he knows certain things have "already happened"; events wouldn't have gotten to this point without other events happening, even if they haven't happened just yet. (It all makes brilliant sense when you're watching.) Vigalondo's debut contains the kind of creativity and storytelling economy that should be the envy of seasoned veterans, and it announces the arrival of a potentially major talent.