Sunday, November 25, 2012

Movie – 11 Minutes Ago (2007)

So you’re a time traveler.  You go back in time about 50 years to 2007 in order to get air samples from a period when Earth’s air was a lot cleaner, in the hopes that you can use this to deal with the planet’s current problem.  When you take your very first trip back you are immediately confronted with lights, a camera, and a man asking you about your trip back in time.  Needless to say, you would be disoriented and seriously stunned by this.  What the heck is going on here?

It turns out that the house that the time traveler, whose name is Pack (Ian Michaels), lives in fifty years in the future is hosting a wedding reception on the day he ends up going back to.  The camera crew was originally there to record the reception, but are recording him instead.  The thing is, the way they are talking to Pack indicates that they already know most everything there is to know about him.  They claim he’s been there off and on for a couple of hours and show him things he’s done.  One of these is a drawing that Pack did explaining time travel to these folks.  It serves two purposes now: it actually helps explain to Pack that he is going to make several trips back to this same wedding reception (although he doesn’t know why yet), and it helps keep clear for us, the viewers, which of these trips he is on as the movie goes along.

This is important because Pack can only stay in the past for 11 minutes at a time.  If he misses his window to leave he will be permanently stuck in the past with no hope of ever being able to go back to his own time.  Complicating matters for Pack is that it takes three months between returns to his own time for him to be able to make another trip.  From the diagram showing eight different trips he knows he will be spending the next two years of his life coming back again and again to this same wedding reception.  Why?

From what the camera crew can tell him, he apparently has developed (will develop) a quick connection to Cynthia (Christine Mauro), the woman who is planning the reception.  In addition, there are other “mysteries” that Pack doesn’t know the answers to (or even realize are mysteries yet), such as why the bride is acting so bitchy and why the groom is drunker and drunker as the reception goes on.

The movie is told in a non-linear fashion.  In fact, it is a bit like Memento in that we live the movie from the perspective of the time traveler who has no idea of what has gone on in the past, because it hasn’t happened to him yet.  We are unraveling the sequences of events right along with Pack.

You may be asking, “why 11 minutes?”  Alfred Hitchcock famously filmed Rope (1948) in eight 10 minute takes.  Writer/director Bob Gebert filmed this movie in eight 11 minute takes.  Each 11 minute experience that Pack has at this reception is an unbroken, single take.  In addition, Gebert literally shot this entire film in a single day.  In order to help accomplish this he did something pretty ingenious: the camera crew there to record the reception is actually Gebert’s own crew that is shooting the movie.  This means there is no need to worry about the director (Gebert) or the sound guy being caught on camera or not.  In fact, it is Gebert who ends up interacting with Pack quite a bit on these various trips.  He is the one confronting Pack when Pack very first comes back in time.

As Pack takes more and more trips we see the tables being reversed where he is the one familiar with many of the people at the reception, including the very skeptical camera crew.  It takes a couple trips for him to semi-convince them he is who he says he is and for them to start following him around instead of doing their real jobs.

The negative comments I’ve read about this film are mostly to do with the plot.  My guess is that people were expecting it to be more of a “world saver” with the dirty air cleanup problem.  In actuality, that is just a maguffin to give an excuse for why he has traveled back in time.  It’s also possible that some people simply didn’t pay attention during the various sequences, and so the movie didn’t make a lot of sense to them. 
Make sure that you watch all the way through the credits.  One of the mysteries does not get resolved until then.  Remember that we are seeing everything from the camera that was originally there to record the wedding reception.  A couple of times, though, it seemed like we were seeing something from a second camera’s perspective.  I sort of wrote that off as an error on the filmmaker’s part, but it turns out that this has been a small, but important clue to the resolution of the film.

I mentioned Memento and Rope in comparison to this film.  No, 11 Minutes Ago is not as good as either of those films, but considering the non-existent budget and local acting talent that Gebert had for the film I feel that the movie does quite a good job.  Unless you only want big budget, flashy time travel movies, I highly recommend you see this film.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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  1. Chip you have proven yourself time and again with science fiction so I shall take your recommendation as almost gospel for this film that I've never heard of. It sounds great and I must see it.

    I forget if this has come up in conversation before, are you on Goodreads by any chance? Also I know Michael who keeps up and he is looking for people with lots of knowledge to write overviews of specific literary genres. I mention this because you certainly seem to be well versed in science fiction and based on the fun I had writing the hard-boiled and noir segments thought it may float your boat so to speak.

    1. "Chip you have proven yourself time and again with science fiction so I shall take your recommendation as almost gospel for this film that I've never heard of. It sounds great and I must see it."

      Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it. 11 Minutes Ago is not like Primer in that it has a "hard science fiction" core to it. It was more like Safety Not Guaranteed, which was about the people, crossed with some of the questions Primer raised about time paradoxes. It's definitely not as complex as Primer.

      "I forget if this has come up in conversation before, are you on Goodreads by any chance? Also I know Michael who keeps up"

      I don't remember us discussing those sites. I will have to check them out. Thanks for mentioning them to me.

  2. I'm not sure how this one slipped by my radar, but based on your review, I need to check this out. It sounds a bit like a puzzle that can only be solved once all the pieces are in view.

    1. I never heard of it until it showed up for Netflix Instant viewing. I doubt it was ever released theatrically in your country. It was a very small, low budget movie. Your last sentence is a good description of the movie.