Time LapseLegend has it that Leonardo da Vinci slept only two hours per day, resting in periodic snippets of 10 to 30 minutes. This unusual sleep pattern is known as polyphasic sleep or “the sleep of genius.” Da Vinci put these extra waking hours to good use, pursuing his mastery of painting and sculpture, continuing his work as an engineer and inventor, and furthering the knowledge of man in disciplines such as anatomy and mathematics. A journalist once attempted to adopt this habit, and after several weeks was able to get by on less than four hours of sleep per day, but he soon found himself bored and wasted the extra time on television and junk food. The moral of the story is that you need a genius to make the most out of certain opportunities.

There is not a single da Vinci to be found in the low-key sci-fi thriller, Time Lapse, an absence that is keenly felt. The premise of the film is that a camera has been invented that can take a polaroid picture of the future, specifically a single shot of the scene immediately in front of the lens, capturing it as it will be exactly 24 hours later. One can only imagine what da Vinci would have done with such a machine. In Time Lapse, the camera is used almost exclusively to pick winners in dog races. Yeah, dog races. What’s even better is that the plot hinges on a bookie who takes bets on dog races. So the geniuses who stumble upon this camera and decide to use it to make money off dog races from a bookie, somehow manage to screw that little system up. No da Vinci’s here.

Director Bradley King, who co-wrote the screenplay with producer B.P. Cooper, does some nice work in his feature film debut. The pacing is generally sharp, the camera work moves nicely, and the mise-en-scène is effectively appropriate to the tale. Unfortunately, taking a premise that is as large as the universe and placing so many limitations on the storytelling that the infinite possibilities of time and space are essentially shrunk to the goings-on in a living room in an apartment shared by three 20-somethings reduces the film to a curious footnote on the list of interesting time travel movies.

Callie (Danielle Panabaker) and Finn (Matt O’Leary) are resident managers of a low-rent garden apartment complex with friend Jasper (George Finn) tucked away in the spare room. When the nice old neighbor hasn’t been seen for a few days while his newspapers and mail pile up, Callie lets herself into the apartment, only to find (a) no rotting corpse, and (b) a time travel camera, which, being a prototype, weighs about half a ton and is mounted to the floor. The lens is pointed at their living room window across a courtyard, and the wall of the apartment is decorated with polaroid shots of their comings and goings over the last few months without caption or explanation. Before long, Finn, the painter who is artistically blocked, is using the daily photo to figure out what to paint, Jasper has literally gone to the dogs, and Callie is maneuvering to stay one step ahead of the other two.

Unfortunately, Time Lapse is another in a string of recent cinematic examples of group dynamics gone bad, a field of study that necessitates one male from every group of three or more in a genre film becoming a rampant douchebag and threatening the other members of the group. Jasper draws the short straw here, and the next thing you know, he’s hiding golf clubs and baseball bats all over the house, when he’s not screaming, “You don’t fuck with time!” True – it turns out that time fucks with you through a little thing called inevitability. That reminder comes at the end of the film, but, then again, you don’t need to be a genius to figure that out.

Two stars.


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