Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Time Lapse (2014)

One of the Twilight Zone episodes I find more memorable was called A Most Unusual Camera.  In it, three people find a camera that can see several minutes into the future.  They use it to win lots of money at the race track, as they can simply take a picture of the scoreboard and bet on what it shows.  It’s a fairly simple, straightforward story.  I doubt any of us would pass on such an opportunity.  However, such an opportunity isn’t without consequences.

In Time Lapse, a similar scenario is presented.  Finn is the maintenance guy for a rental complex.  He lives with Jasper and Callie, who help out.  Callie will sometimes check on people.  Jasper’s main contribution seems to be betting on races.  This is not an unimportant contribution.

When Finn gets the call that Mr. Bezzerides hasn’t paid the rent in two months, Callie goes over to check on him.  She doesn’t find Mr. B right away, but she does find a large camera aimed at their place.  How they never noticed it before isn’t mentioned, but it there is a large collection of Polaroid pictures on two walls.  Many have some combination of Callie, Finn and Jasper.

They come to realize that each picture shows what happens 24 hours in advance.  Jasper immediately realizes the potential to make money on races.  The catch is that Mr. B’s body is in his storage room.  Jasper wants to call the police and let the law take its course.  They agree to a compromise:  They wait for the next photo and see what happens.  If it shows yellow police tape, they call it in.  If it shows race results, they call Jasper’s bookie.

As you might imagine, the next photo shows sports scores.  Finn, Callie and Jasper become rich.  There is a catch:  Mr. B kept a journal stating not to deviate from what’s in the picture lest something horrible happen.  (Again, details aren’t forthcoming.)  This isn’t an issue until one photo shows Callie and Jasper making out.   Callie and Finn are a couple, which puts them on edge, but they go through with it.  They don’t want to risk deviating from the picture.

Then, Ivan appears in one of the photos.  Ivan is Jasper’s very paranoid bookie.  Ivan’s curious how Jasper has gone from a loser to a winner so quickly.  Jasper tries to pass it off as a lucky streak.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Right?  When Ivan finds out about the camera, he takes over their little operation.  Ivan’s muscle, Marcus, will take possession of the photo so that Ivan can place the bets directly, compensating the trio for their troubles.  I don’t know that I’d be ruining anything by giving away the ending, but I won’t risk it.  All I’ll say is that the last picture any of them sees is of police tape.

There seems to be two paths you can take when presented with knowledge of the future.  As I said, this isn’t the first movie to show the main characters giving in to greed.  The Brass Teapot managed to handle it well.  The other extreme would be something like Early Edition, which showed how a good person might handle such knowledge.  Given to someone that realizes the humanitarian potential, a lot of good could be done.

To be honest, I’d probably want to make money given a crystal ball like this.  I’d probably find a way to pass along sports scores or lottery numbers.  I’d like to think I’d play it conservatively.  There’s no talk in the movie of attracting the wrong attention.  If you make the money at a track, you’re going to be noticed by the IRS at the very least.  The track (or, in this case, the bookie) is bound to ask some questions.  Jasper didn’t take this into consideration.

The big question is whether or not we have any sort of free will.  Seeing the picture creates a bootstrap paradox.  Anyone in the picture that’s aware of the picture has to replicate what they did.  Are they doing I because they know they have to or would they have done it anyway?  (Finn also gets to see his paintings, meaning he may not actually be creating them.  Then again, who is he copying from?)  The roommates had gone for months without ever knowing about the pictures, but the pictures were there.  There future had been foretold.  Mr. B essentially plays the role of Wigner’s Friend.

Ultimately, those who live by the camera die by the camera.

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