Time travel thrillers are always a tough genre to pull off, given the complications of the subject matter and the logical loopholes that need to be carefully addressed throughout. With Christopher Nolan’s Tenet bringing forward a new concept known as ‘Inversion’, the time travel space could get a new sleeve and perspectives which haven’t been explored previously. Here, we bring you eight films from multiple platforms that explore complex, confusing narratives and come out with a win.
Spanish screenwriter Oriol Paulo, known for trendsetting thrillers such as The Invisible Guest and The Body, came out with this time travel film that was spread over a timeline of 25 years. Alvaro Morte, best known for his big show as The Professor in Money Heist, played an important role in this thriller that challenges your mind from start to finish. Though it should have been 20 minutes shorter, the film still works well!
Rian Johnson recently won a lot of love for his investigative thriller Knives Out, but some time back, he did come up with an intense, twisted time travel thriller in Looper. The film followed a man who went back in time with an assassin assignment, only to realize that he has been sent to kill a younger version of himself. The stellar star cast that the film boasts of, comprises of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis.
Director Terry Gilliam came up with this complicated yet compelling time travel thriller that spins its plot around a deadly virus that begins to bring the world down. Watching it at this point of will seem a lot more relevant, and the film does hold a lot of similarities to Tenet – this is something that we realized after watching the latter’s trailer.
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio came together for this twisted mystery thriller that pulled off a big surprise at the end. Though it is not a time travel film per se, the narrative and the suspenseful proceedings keep you invested right until the end, blowing you away with efficient cinematography and a creepy feeling overall.
ARQ (2016) - Netflix
Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor may not be everyone’s first choice when thinking of a time-loop thriller but The Flash and Jessica Jones alumni take the kitschy superhero element into a darker space with this Netflix original. In ARQ, an engineer finds an energy source to quell all of Earth’s problems. While building a device to harness that power, he inadvertently creates a time-loop for himself and his friends, while trapped in a cabin. ARQ’s strength, in spite of being far-fetched, is that it is a testament to Netflix’s production value where a budget film can also create a competent sci-fi setup. Everything happens within the confinement of four walls, adding to the suffocating anxiety of its time loop. You may not be mind blown by the visuals and there are hardly any effects, but there is never a dull moment.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
Sometimes, all you need is a great high-concept idea to do something truly remarkable. Critics may argue that Black Mirror’s stand-alone episode Bandersnatch is less a sum of consequences than instances itself, but arguably it has changed the way we understand time travel and interact with platforms which were traditionally only meant to provide entertainment. In this choose-your-own-adventure story, viewers aren’t just thrust into a situation where every decision alters the course of life for the characters, but it plays on our need to look back and wonder - what if we could get lost in an alternate reality, or go back and fix our mistake? There is as much to learn about how interactivity can be a character in the narrative, as much as we can learn about ourselves as individuals.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) - Amazon Prime Video
If there’s one thing that never happens, it’s that you find a Tom Cruise film to be ‘criminally underrated.’ But Edge of Tomorrow, which is based on a Japanese novel, takes the ‘groundhog day’ concept and puts it into a high-octane action film which also involves an alien invasion. An inexperienced officer is forced to get into combat against aliens who are taking over Europe. Spoiler: He dies pretty quickly. But only to realise that the reason the extraterrestrials are winning is that they have the ability to travel back in time and learn from their mistakes. When exposed to the same ability, it’s time to play the game with new rules and save the Earth. A mixture of great action, great humour, and great aliens (‘mimics’) makes this a worthy watch.
Star Trek fans would love the predestination paradox at the core of Ethan Hawke’s sci-fi thriller. It tells the story of time-travelling agents who restore order in 1970s New York. Simple enough. But if the actual time-travel part is something that doesn’t really impress you, Predestination has the advantage of being emotionally resonant. Not too many time-loop/mind-bending thrillers attempt to look at how the movement of time or creating non-linear time passages affect personal identity and shape personal trauma. But it’s not all that series, and there are enough twists and turns to make the film fun. Unlike most other lazily made films of the genre, the loops are neatly and intelligently closed, and the characters are really well rounded as well!
Get started, get thrilled and get yourself prepared for the tantalizing Tenet!