It’s going to be hard to review Counter Clockwise. There’s so much that can be spoiled, and I really don’t want to do that. This is a movie that you should go into blind; with no knowledge of anything prior. No trailer, no synopsis–nothing. But let me back up here a bit. You should be warned: I’m a big time travel nerd. Some of my favorite movies ever are legends of the genre like Back to the Future, Donnie Darko, and Primer. These are some of the movies that do a heady topic like time travel justice. So I just want to let you know where I’m coming from. I have high standards, but I’m also totally okay with not understanding what’s going on from time to time. Because at the end of the day, time travel stories are hard to tell. And while Counter Clockwise doesn’t really reach that high standard, what it does… it does very well.
The basic premise is about a scientist named Ethan Walker who accidentally discovers time travel, and things go sideways from there. Think of it as a mash up between Dude Where’s My Car? and something like Primer or Coherence. One of the first things that caught my attention in Counter Clockwise is how beautifully shot it is. Director George Moise does a masterful job of pulling the viewer in. Shots are framed well, the scene scale is perfect, and the use of fade outs genuinely made me giddy. So much is conveyed purely from the directing that the characters have an easier job convincing us of their plight. There are great moving shots during some of the many chase scenes that really go a long way in showcasing the director’s chops. It feels intentional and incredibly clever, and the movie is all the better for it.
Which brings me to another highlight of Counter Clockwise: the way that the story unfolds is downright brilliant at times. There are payoffs that take their time to… payoff, but they’re worth it. The cast of characters you meet in Counter Clockwise range from the interesting interesting to the insane. They’re written more like caricatures than people, and I thought they were quite entertaining. For you gamers out there, if you’re comfortable with Grand Theft Auto’s level of parody and stupidity, then you’ll be right at home here. And I say that as a compliment. Ethan himself is little more than an avatar in the story, but the rogues gallery he meets on the way more than make up for it. One particular performance by Walker’s lawyer really got me. Watching actor Chip Bolcik chew up the scenery is so satisfying. I wish there was more of him.
There are some plot holes sprinkled around that I wish were tied up a bit better and some cheap escapes that really could have used another pass in the scripting process, but Counter Clockwise handles the paradox of time travel deftly and is much smarter than it lets on. And that’s where the film really shines. The pacing is on point here and information comes in deliberately but frequently. Once things start to pick up, they do so with a confidence that truly elevates the story from a time travel movie to A Time Travel movie! In general, the story is not afraid to go places and is constantly introducing new wrinkles that fill in gaps to the viewer. It’s a satisfying watch.
I wish there was more I could say about the Counter Clockwise, but it’s best experienced as a blank slate. If you’re into the concept of time travel and don’t mind some head fuckery, go watch this movie.
Counter Clockwise is out on VOD December 13th.
Counter Clockwise [Review]
Counter Clockwise is a smart thriller that knows when to show its hand.