41 [AU 2012]

Info: I embedded the full movie below.

THE PLOT

After an exam, Aidan, a young student of philosophy, meets his doppelganger who tells him, to not go to a certain motel. Naturally, Aidan is curious and investigates the place. There, he encounters his ex-girlfriend Lauren who works part-time to support her art. They decide to have dinner together to catch up, however on their way back, they have a car accident. Aidan survives but Lauren dies, which is why her family wants to press charges. In the hospital, Aidan is again told about the motel and the secret in room 41. As he arrives there, he discovers that if you go down a trap door in the bathroom, you travel back in time exactly 12 hours. Thus, he plans to save Lauren and prevent the accident from happening – however, things start to get complicated after he finds that he was the reason for the accident in the first place.

WHAT I LIKE

There are several independent time travel movies that feature a clever premise and succeed in telling a coherent and entertaining story, e.g. Timecrimes [2007], Primer [2004], or Coherence [2013]. Likewise, 41 also has a clever core concept and the writing is mostly efficient, as the characters discuss the meaning of life and the possibility of multiple universes (e.g., at the university or at the dinner party with the scientists). In addition, there is an entertaining meta-comment about time travel narratives when Aidan visits his professor. Here, one guest criticizes Aidan’s story as being “predictable” and having “weak, overused plot elements”. It becomes clear, that the whole story can be read metaphorically, about him trying to finally deal with the breakup from his ex-girlfriend, which is handled quite successfully. Also, the cinematography is nice and has a few good tracking shots (e.g., when Aidan runs from the police or when he sees his doppelganger), and the score is somber and atmospheric and never really forces itself onto the viewer.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

With a reported production cost of about $3,000, 41 is considered an independent production. This means that while the actors generally do a decent job, there are some scenes that feature middling or weak performances, notably of side characters (e.g., Aidan’s friends). There are some moments of occasional humor that do not fit the overall atmosphere, e.g. when Aidan breaks out of the police station. Furthermore, some scenes don’t make a lot of sense, e.g. the interrogation scene and the motives of the policemen. Sadly, although the ending works on an emotional level, it only works narratively when the viewer accepts an obvious plot hole, which is why the last act does suffer in comparison to the well-written premise.

THE VERDICT

41 is an independent science fiction movie about a student of philosophy, who discovers a trap door in a motel room that leads to the past. The premise is basic but interesting, and the movie is mostly well executed, with great cinematography and an atmospheric score. The performances are somewhat middling, but the main actor mostly does a decent job. The plot is overall thrilling and clever, however, the ending will throw some viewers off, due to a central plot hole. Still, the movie is efficiently made and demonstrates that science fiction can also deal with very down-to-earth issues.

Overall 7/10

INTERESTING FACTS

 – Alternative title names for the movie were “A motel in time” and “Motel 41”.

 – The budget for 41 was reportedly under $3,000. As the actors worked for free, the money was only spent on the camera gear.

 – The concept of the trap door was only due to financial constraints – the original screenplay featured a mirror that lead to the past.

 – According to writer/director Glenn Triggs, the most influential films for creating 41 were Field of Dreams [1989], Time Machine [1960], Back to the Future [1985], and Being John Malkovich [1999].

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