Time Travel Thursday: Time Loop (2020)
Time travel tropes9
Matthew Turner | On 25, Mar 2021
Director: Ciro Sorrentino
Cast: Sam Gittins, Mino Sferra, Ellie Poussot, Eliana Manvati
Watch Time Loop online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Has Tenet whetted your appetite for more time travel titilation? Transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursday, our column devoted to time travel movies on Amazon Prime. It’s on Thursday.
Written and directed by Italian filmmaker Ciro Sorrentino (who gives himself a “created by” credit), Time Loop is an entertaining indie time travel thriller that makes a virtue of its extremely low budget. Originally known as Time Perspectives, the film is entirely shot in the Italian countryside, which gives it a distinctive look that instantly separates it from all the other low-budget time travel thrillers that are set in warehouses or dimly lit science labs.
Set in the present day (judging by the lead character’s iPhone), Time Loop centres on Ricky Farina (former EastEnder Sam Gittins), a British science student who’s come to Italy to work on a university-funded science project with his estranged father, Riccardo (Mino Sferra). After running an errand in the local village, Ricky returns to find his father ranting at their energy field machine, whereupon his dad apologises for what he’s about to do and shoves him into the field.
When he wakes up, Ricky realises that he has travelled 65 minutes into the past and created a time loop in the process. Before you can say “time paradox”, all manner of chaos ensues, involving a pig, some Lotto numbers, a stolen Vespa and a French scientist (Ellie Poussot), as well as various different versions of Ricky himself.
In terms of expected time travel tropes, Time Loop scores very highly indeed. For one thing, it has a decent time machine, in the form of an energy-generating archway, some electrical equipment and a very simple digital effect, whereby the visible energy field in the archway makes everything look a bit wobbly.
The machine also comes with its own set of arbitrary rules – as Riccardo puts it, it “only has one speed” – namely that you can only go backwards in time and only for 65 minutes. The script doesn’t give a specific reason for that, but at least it keeps things simple.
Time Loop’s biggest strength is the sheer amount of fun it has with the titular concept. As popularised by Back to the Future II, one of the most enjoyable tropes in the time travel genre is having characters witness previous scenes from different perspectives, taking care to avoid running into future or past versions of themselves in the process. Time Loop takes that idea and runs with it to hugely enjoyable effect.
Similarly, Time Loop pays close attention to another of the genre’s key pleasures: the idea of cause and effect or set-up and pay-off – in other words, everything strange that happens in the first loop (like the sudden appearance of a pig) is eventually explained in future loops. Indeed, the plotting is pleasingly meticulous throughout, with Sorrentino ensuring that literally everything, even the smallest detail, connects in satisfying fashion.
As for the subject of time paradoxes, the script has actually put a lot of thought into it, with some interesting discussion surrounding ideas of intention, free will, action, reaction, self-fulfilling prophecy and the like. It’s not all philosophical musings, though – the dialogue also leans into the enjoyable nonsense side of it all, with amusing lines such as “Please don’t even mention parallel universes, it only makes things even more complicated than they already are”. There are other nice touches too, such as the characters helpfully drawing the plot’s timeline on a whiteboard as they go along.
The only thing that really lets the film down are the supporting performances. Gittins, for his part, is excellent, comfortably carrying the film and delivering a likeable, level-headed turn that works well. However, the rest of the cast (which is really just Sferra, Poussot and Eliana Manvati as the young woman Ricky likes) are borderline terrible, mostly because English is clearly their second language and it sounds like they’ve learned their lines phonetically.
In addition, considering the plotting is so efficient elsewhere, there are a couple of baffling flaws. For example, there’s just no need for the characters to be surprised that they’ve invented a time machine, especially as the script never explains just what they thought they were working on in the first place.
That said, once you get used to the acting (Sferra’s Italian accent is often impenetrable), this is an enjoyable, briskly paced and genre-savvy time travel thriller that ticks all the right boxes. It’s also a testament to what can be achieved with an inventive script, a small cast and minimal locations. Oh, and it sticks the landing with a great ending.
Time Loop (2020) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.