Life is tough for hotel manager Mr. Kerr (John C. Gilmour). He’s not having a great time of it at home with his wife (Natalie Clark), and he’s in the midst of some financial problems that he’s not being completely honest about. Sometimes he makes a little extra cash pawning items left at the hotel, and other times he attempts to hit the jackpot at poker. Overall, though, things aren’t looking too good.
One evening, after losing it all at poker, he is approached by a hotel investigator (Alton Milne) who accuses Mr. Kerr of not just the lost property scam, but also other fraud. Copping to the former, Mr. Kerr wants to clear his name of the latter, taking the investigator back to the hotel so he can go over the records and nab the real criminal. Which is when things go from bad to worse, as the hotel investigator is revealed to be something else entirely, and Mr. Kerr finds himself in the middle of some truly criminal activity.
David Griffith’s TimeLock is a wonderful criminal mystery that reveals itself slowly. Characters are continually being revised as new developments unmask the depth of complexity for what is to come. Everyone, and everything, is connected in some way or another.
In some ways it is predictable, in so many more it isn’t. The film builds an uneasy tone throughout; it’s hard to get comfortable because you never know to what degree Mr. Kerr’s already troubled existence will become that much worse, but you just know it’s coming. What winds up being truly stunning is how much of an architect of his own tragedy Mr. Kerr winds up being throughout, from his past to present.
Visually, the film delivers enticing composition and other tricks that offer up something more to feast on. The result is a film that is as intriguing to the eye as it is to the mind. The depth of field work and this lingering feeling of greyness add to the blurring of intentions, consequences and motivations.
Ultimately, I think it is the audience’s willingness to try and reconcile those twisted motivations and intentions that makes the different mysteries work. If you don’t appreciate how complex the different choices are, or even care when they’re made, this film could be a little too slow for comfort. That said, if you give over to it, the performances draw you in and you find yourself sympathetic to people and situations you might otherwise have scorned. Basically, there’s a lot here if you’re willing to work for it a little.
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