Co-directed by Mark Dennis and Ben Foster (Strings 2011), starring Andrew Wilson (Whip It 2009, The Big Year 2011) as Hooper, along with Cassidy Gifford (God’s Not Dead 2014, The Gallows 2015) as Cara, Time Trap is a complicated Sci-Fi Thriller with a simple premise: when a group of students go looking for an archeology professor who went missing looking for the Fountain of Youth, they quickly find themselves in increasingly spectacular danger…
Set for release in select theaters on Friday, November 2, 2018 before becoming available on all digital platforms November 16th through Paladin and Giant Interactive, Time Trap is a film that oozes polish. It very clearly had a decent budget behind it, and that budget has gone far, creating a trim and lean high concept Sci-Fi Thriller that pulls off what any film of its ilk should: asking questions, satisfyingly answering those questions, but still leaving enough mystery in the air that those answers just ask more questions.
In many ways, the film’s DNA owes a lot to television shows such as the hit ABC series Lost, acting as a quick one hour and twenty minute run-through of that mystery-box plot structure. It works well here, and just like television shows like Lost, it works because it manages to nail the fundamental character work that gives the audience any reason at all to care about the machinations of the plot.
Naturally however, no matter how well a writer gets the fundamentals, it is still entirely possible for it to mean nothing if the film is marred by poor visual craft. Thankfully that is not the case here – the visuals are clean and clear, if lacking some degree of stylistic flourish. One particular area of visual note would be the wise decision to not get mired in the film’s darkness – and that’s meant in a very literal way. Large swaths of the cave take place in dark tunnels, and it works in the film’s favor that the director opted to not sacrifice aesthetics in the name of realism and make those scenes a pitch-black struggle to see just what is going on. This has been a trend in recent films with similar environments: the emphasis on realism over accessibility, and Time Trap does well in showing the strengths of how it has handled the situation. The tunnels are dark, but they are not too dark – it may sound like a small thing, but it makes a big impact on the end result.
As mentioned before, high-concept pieces of entertainment tend to sink or swim on their character work. While the high-concept twist may be what gets people hooked, it does little to really keep people invested: for that you need strong characters that the audience can grow attached to. Thankfully, the performances are mostly good here, meaning that Time Trap manages to avoid the pitfall of having its actors unable to give the proceedings a degree of human flare. While they are occasionally just a little more wooden than would have been most effective, generally the performances are naturalistic and real, which lends a great deal of weight to the proceedings.
It is also important to note that the performances do not exist in a vacuum here. Because this is a fairly tight-knit story, the characters only really work in relation to each other – it’s not how well they exist as individuals that is important, it is how well they exist as a unit. The interplay between the characters ring true, and thus the characters ring true themselves, and thus the audience is given any reason at all to care about the story over just the plot.
Additionally, the editing of individual thriller sequences is also done very well, particularly in the back-half of the film. Special credit needs to go to an expository sequence later on as well, which does an excellent job of using both visual and audio cues to progress the story. The climax is well-paced, and notably the ending does a good job of casting a new light on the story that came before without throwing away it’s significance entirely. That is a hard thing to get right, but extremely effective when a filmmaker does. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Time Trap 4 out of 5 stars.