This is the latest in a series of time-travel mysteries which
originated with a 2004 theatrical flick starring Ashton Kutcher. This
time, the time-traveling Ashton 3.0 dude is eking out a living as a paid
informant for the police. He goes back in time, watches crimes being
committed, identifies the perps, and tries to observe clues which the cops
can use as tangible evidence. The police don't quite "get it," of course,
but all of his tips prove 100% reliable, which makes the ordinary
detectives seem like Sherlock Holmes, so the coppers pay off Ash III and
don't ask too many questions. It is frustrating for Ash-3 to have to sit
idly by and observe while vicious killers slaughter their victims, of
course, but the top secret time-travel rules, which he figured out with
the help of a physicist, forbid him from doing anything to alter the past.
He can only observe it.
Oh, you silly goose. You're thinking, "But his presence there, even as
an observer, has to change things, and those insignificant changes in the
past could multiply to significance in the present. What if the murderer
spots Ashton III watching the crime, and changes his plans?" Oh, you're
being so silly. You'll just have to accept the fact that nothing changes
when he plays by the rules. Of course, that would make for a boring movie,
so he decides NOT to play by the rules.
Here's the deal. He is visited by the sister of his ex-girlfriend, who
was murdered. She says that the guy on death row for the murder is
innocent, and produces convincing evidence of that. Unfortunately, the
evidence is not convincing enough for the authorities, who plan to go
ahead with the execution, but Ash-3 senses that the woman is correct, so
he plans to go back, watch the murder, and identify the real killer. His
sister, who knows about the time-travel power, says, "So, let me see if I
understand this. You're going to go back and watch the love of your life
get murdered, but you'll only observe. Yeah. What could go wrong?" His
consulting physicist advises him similarly, but Triple Ashton is a
stubborn cuss, and he goes back.
Well, of course, his sis and the professor were right. He just makes a
right mess of things. People in the past recognize him; the girlfriend
still dies; additional people get killed; Murphy's Law prevails. The
person who killed his girlfriend in Present 1.0 has somehow turned into a
serial killer when he returns to Present 1.1. He feels that he has to go
back again to try to fix it. That fails, so he tries again, and so forth.
The biggest problem is that every time he goes back he leaves his own DNA
at a crime scene, so that every time he returns to the present, the police
are that much closer to locking him up. Since he never does come
face-to-face with the killer in his time travels, and since time-traveling
makes him act crazy, we wonder if perhaps he really is the killer ...
That's all I can tell you. The film is entirely plot-driven, so I can't
reveal much more.
There were all sorts of possibilities inherent in that premise, and I
have to admit that I was really hoping that he actually was the killer and
was not aware of it because of the various time-travel paradoxes. That
could have been a nifty little twist, ala Angel Heart or Memento, where he
finally realizes he is looking for himself. It did not go down that way.
In fact, the way it did go down was far too mundane and gimmicky. The
script solved the mystery by introducing completely new information in the
last couple of minutes, and the denouement was driven by one of those
familiar movie speeches where the killer voluntarily provides all the
exposition in the final minutes just because chatty movie killers love to
crow about their plans, gosh darn it. ("So you see, Mr Bond, I can now
reveal my entire complicated plan to you because you are about to die. I
won't tell you every detail, but I'll tantalize you with just enough
information so that you know you could stop me if you could escape. That
will make your death so much more frustrating for you, knowing what you
could have done by escaping. Which, of course, you can't.")
Of course there are logic gaps, as there are in any time-travel movie.
Take the obvious one. Ash-3 first goes back in time because a woman asked
him to get the innocent guy off death row in present 1.0. When he returns
to present 1.1, the innocent guy is a successful lawyer, the woman who
asked him to help is dead, and his emotionally troubled sister is markedly
improved. Problem solved. Sweet little 15-minute movie. Let's get a beer.
Of course, if the woman who asked him to help was killed ten years ago,
then she couldn't have asked him to help, but ... well, now we're getting
into matters that are not specific to this script, but apply to ALL
time-travel scripts, which are inherently silly. If you are willing to
live with that, then I'd say you might well enjoy the tricky plotting. I
was really into it until the last five minutes. I wondered who the killer
was, and I wondered how Ashton-3 could convince the cops he was innocent.
I was, however, disappointed by the contrived "surprise" ending which did
not follow logically from any of the preceding information, and I was even
more disappointed by one of those awkward epilogues with a hackneyed "The
End?????" wink to the audience.