Time Travel Thursday: Time Trap (2017)
Time travel tropes8.5
Ideas and execution7.5
Matthew Turner | On 30, Apr 2020
Director: Mark Dennis, Ben Foster
Cast: Brianne Howey, Cassidy Erin Gifford, Olivia Draguicevich, Andrew Wilson, Reiley McClendon, Max Wright
Watch Time Trap online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent)
Wondering how to fill the time travel gap now that Travelers and Timeless have been cancelled? Then transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursdays, our column devoted to time travel movies on Netflix. It’s on Thursdays.
Co-directed by Mark Dennis and Ben Foster (not that one), Time Trap begins with Professor Jason Hopper (Andrew Wilson, the film’s only recognisable face) searching for something in a cave in Texas. When he disappears, students Taylor (Reiley McClendon) and Jackie (Brianne Howey) go looking for him, accompanied by their friend Cara (Cassidy Gifford), Cara’s younger sister Veeves (Olivia Draguicevich) and her classmate Furby (Max Wright), who insists on bringing his video camera along.
Leaving Furby behind to keep watch, the group enter the cave, but they’ve barely been gone an hour when their ropes break, injuring Taylor and Jackie and stranding everyone underground. Eventually, the foursome figure out that time is passing at a different speed in the cave – and, worse, that they may not be alone down there.
As time travel concepts go, a cave where time passes differently is a pretty good one and the film gains bonus points for tying the idea into The Fountain of Youth myth. Similarly, the film (scripted by Dennis) is aware of the basic time travel tropes associated with the genre and deploys at least one of the classics to good effect, namely having something happen (a walkie talkie conversation) that’s later replayed from a different perspective.
The script holds onto its central mystery for slightly longer than is strictly necessary, especially as an early shot involves Hopper emerging from the cave to find his van covered in plants. In fact, it takes a full 47 minutes (out of a total of 87) for the kids to actually work out what’s going on, but the film more than makes up for lost time after that, quickly throwing a succession of curveballs that will have your head spinning.
Accordingly, the latter half of the film contains a number of nice ideas, but the film singularly fails to explore them, opting to keep things moving at an exciting pace instead. Hilariously, the film waves away all its discussion points with a throwaway line (“We’ve got a lot to talk about”) that deserves some sort of award for understatement. On the plus side, that decision not to explain everything does at least leave the film with a palpable air of mystery, while trusting the audience to work certain things out for themselves.
The film has a number of imaginative ideas that are rendered with interesting visuals, particularly in the final act. It also makes strong use of its (presumably real) cave locations and uses lighting to clever effect in order to indicate the passage of time. On top of that, the story finds a neat way to include a found footage sequence.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have problems. For one thing, the introduction of a particular threat doesn’t quite work, since it’s at odds with the cave’s deeper secrets. The other main problem is that the characters are a little too bland, lacking even basic group dynamics like romantic relationships, unrequited crushes or jealousy – the most we get in that regard is a weakly-written overprotective sibling bond between Cara and Veeves that goes nowhere. There are a number of other details that are poorly served by the script, meaning that the film lacks the emotional impact it could and should have had.
Unfortunately, the film has one unforgivable final flaw – no film should ever leave you wondering what happened to the dog. Take note, filmmakers.
Time Trap is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.