Time Travel Thursday: Excursion (2019)
Time travel tropes5
Low budget filmmaking6
Matthew Turner | On 04, Feb 2021
Director: Martin Grof
Cast: Johnny Mindlin, Richard Canal, Sophie Wilson, J.P. Turner, Jeryl Burgess
Watch Excursion online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Has Tenet whetted your appetite for more time travel titillation? Transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursdays, our column devoted to time travel movies on Amazon Prime. It’s on Thursdays.
Directed by Czech-born filmmaker Martin Grof (who co-wrote the script with Magdalena Drahovska), Excursion begins in London, 2018, where 56-year-old former Communist Tom gets the shock of his life when he’s confronted by Tomas (Richard Canal), a man he eventually recognises as his 25-year-old self. Tomas claims he’s come from Communist Russia in 1987 and has travelled forward in time in order to ensure that there is prosperity under Socialism.
As Tom fills Tomas in on key historical events – primarily the fall of the Berlin Wall – they are joined by Alexandra (Sophie Wilson), a mysterious, blonde-wigged young woman who informs them that they are trapped in a time loop and she’s been sent to fix things. With the aid of Alexandra’s Personal Space Time Location Device (or time machine), the pair travel back to Russia in 1987 to help her close the loop. However, time loops turn out to be a lot more complicated than either Tom or Tomas imagined.
In terms of its concept, Excursion owes an evident debt to Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004), which made a similar virtue of its extremely limited budget while delivering a twisty time travel plot. In fact, Excursion is even more minimalistic in that regard, as there are just three locations, even if one of them (Tom’s London flat) has a nice balcony that affords a picturesque view of the Thames.
Like Primer, Excursion is very talky and has an intensely information-heavy script, perhaps in the hopes that the audience will be too busy trying to absorb all the facts to pay too much attention to the acting (Mindlin overdoes it a bit and some of his line deliveries need work) or the obvious limitations in the production design.
That said, the production design does at least extend to an actual time machine (a collection of dials in a suitcase), while the time travel itself is achieved with clever editing tricks – repeated moments, time jumps, sudden location changes, that sort of thing. In fact, the simplicity of the set-up is rather charming and actually works in the film’s favour.
Like all good time travel films, Excursion also comes with its own set of rules, namely that you can’t travel back to a time before the Personal Space Time Location Device was invented (in this case, 1986), and also that the device can only take you to a version of yourself within the timeline (regardless of place).
Script-wise, the film takes itself a little too seriously, but it does occasionally indulge a humorous side, most notably in lines such as “You two are definitely the most annoying versions of yourselves”, or “You already tried killing me”. That sort of fun dialogue can really only be found in ridiculous sci-fi stories and is one of the key pleasures of the time travel genre in general, so it’s a shame that Excursion doesn’t lean into that side of things a bit harder.
Without giving anything away, the film pulls off a nice location-based twist, even if the impact of said twist on the plot is ultimately negligible. However, that pattern of introducing a good idea but either ignoring it completely or failing to do anything interesting with it is ultimately a recurring flaw – other examples include failing to deliver on the mystery of Alexandra’s future self, and the fact that the script never properly engages with the Socialism vs Capitalism angle that apparently drove the plot in the first place.
Excursion is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.