The single impulse that makes THiNC. tick, is that we are actively looking for films that are doing it differently. They might be billion-dollar mega-blockbusters (doubtful) or they might be $25 and iPhone Indies (more likely). But, regardless, we want to see the films we tout and gloat about, do something different. Try something new. And today, I have for you the Indie movie Counter Clockwise recommendation for you to check out. As always – this isn’t a review. Or a rating. (Though it has a score there up at the top.) It is mainly a discussion of the fantastic things going on in this movie, and a recommendation to check it out yourself.
The movie tells the story of a Physicist researcher who accidentally creates a time machine. When he uses it to jump six months into the future, he realizes that he is wanted for murder, and the cops are hot on his tail. It is a twisty, and turny sort of film. I found the time traveling more a plot device for editing a tightly wound story than an actual time travel film. Which was intriguing, in and of itself. And in my interview with the writer and director of the film (which I’ll release in the coming days) he explained exactly why that was. You’ll have to join us after you finish reading and commenting here. Now, if you haven’t seen the film yet, you can find it right here on Prime. But be sure to do so before going any further at all in this post. Thanks for that. Glad someone chose to listen to me for once! hahaha.
Counter Clockwise Walkthrough
Here be spoilers. Buyer beware. The movie opens with Ethan and Ceil working to create a teleportation device. But, as we learn later, a few wires on the back of the device fuse, and they inadvertently craft a time machine which then chucks the poor dog hours into the future. And it isn’t until after his eventual return, or their catching up with him – depends in how you look at it, that Ethan puts two and two together to realize what has happened. After Ethan figures it out, he thinks, heck, it worked for a dog… and moments later our intrepid (fool hearty?) physicist finds himself six months in the future where everything has changed for the worse.
His mother is sick, and on the verge of death. Worse, his wife and sister have been murdered, and he is the number one suspect, and the police are looking for him. After all, he’s gone missing since the murders. Ethan knows he has to do something to intervene, and so he goes and finds his fellow researcher, Ceil. She tells him that he’s been missing since his mother’s birthday party. That he obviously goes back in time since he hasn’t experienced the party yet. Before he does though, he goes to the scene of the murder, and he finds scrawled on the bottom of a table, “Estella’s Bathroom” in his own handwriting. Hrmmm. Estella. His mother? He’s going to have to head there and learn what secrets his mother’s bathroom will unveil for him.
Woah, hold… please, just for once, while I pause for one second, and herald the movie hand that drafted the brilliance of this newspaper copy? Because after column one they were done:
“Since I’ve crossed the Rubicon, and my employment at this foul stye of a newspaper is nigh, it’s only fair that I begin my tale…” hahahaha. I’d listen to this copy-slinger’s tale all day long. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. His mother’s house. Right! But there was nothing there. Why? Because Estella wasn’t in reference to his mother, but rather the restaurant Estella. (You’d think he’d know that that would be a confusing scrawl for himself to decipher, but whatever.) After getting caught by the cops who received a tip from his mother’s nurse, Ethan’s lawyer gets him out. But he’s instantly abducted by men who throw him in a car. One of the guys is then killed by the driver who asks Ethan how he knew he was with Syndicate Red. (He knew because you just told him.) Can I just say that Ethan, for being a big fellow, runs a LOT in this movie. Here, there, everywhere. Well, eventually Syndicate Red is hit by a car and Ethan goes back in time to August 23rd 7:25 am. The morning of the murder.
As the running here and there, and the duplicates of Ethan begin to pile up – there is this one moment when Ethan27 calls Ethan12 in order to distract him. I’m sorry. But the same cell phone, with the same sim card registration ID, and cell number absolutely cannot call itself! Or did he have someone else’s phone at that moment? I sort of lost track a little bit. But in the middle here, we learn that his sister is the head of Rekubian, the CEO I believe. And she is the one behind the men that are hunting him … ohhhh. Fiona is a bad guy. Got it. But Ethan is able to wiggle his way free because he knows that one of the goons that is about to kill him is actually with Syndicate Red… which we learned later when he asked how he knew earlier in time. Meet me at the lab… which, obviously he never does, because he told him he wouldn’t.
Ethan then walks in on the scene of the crime at 2:10pm, and there he is… standing over the dead bodies on the ground. And Ethan realizes he just needs to leave, there are one too many of him there already. But its then that Ethan jumps backwards again – this time to 12:30, backwards a little less than 3 hours. He cues up a syringe of Chloral Hydrate, waits for himself to blast past, and cracks himself over the head with a flashlight.
But instead of hitting himself with the Chloral Hydrate, he notices an ad for Estella’s Restaurant! A restaurant. Got it. Instead of finding a note there once he arrives, he actually sees Fiona and the goons talking about how they should use Tiffany, Ethan’s wife as bait in order to lure him out. Which is when Ethan heads over to his mother’s birthday party – which will be the last time he’ll see his mother healthy again. And he tells Ceil to pay attention – to everything. And then he leaves because his sister has his wife.
Which is when Ethan watches as Roman soliloquizes about how he kept his eye on Roman, his lab, his research. That after Ethan left the company, Roman did his best to keep tabs. And that is when Fiona, Ethan’s sister, kills Ethan’s wife because she doesn’t like her. And then Roman kills Fiona because he doesn’t respect others with such little respect for family. Roman tells Rossio and Gilroy (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?) to watch but when one leaves for the bathroom, the other attempts to rape Ethan’s semi-dead sister (necrophilia anyone?) – who then stabs him. Then after Ethan and the goon scuffle, Ethan bests him. Which is when prior Ethan walks in on himself sitting over his dead wife. And that is when he realizes he needs to write on the bottom of the chair, cut to black.
Thoughts on the Ending of Counter Clockwise
Let’s talk for a moment about the ending of the movie Counter Clockwise. After my first casual viewing of the ending, I assumed that the time jumps were used to just guide us through a really interesting narration of a fixed timeline of experiences. Yes, he’s jumping back and forth to fix the jam he’s in… but ultimately nothing is changing. Ethan is literally being ruled by a predetermined fate that he’s already seen play out. His sister dies, his wife dies, etc., etc. This is all inevitable. But then I got to this moment, this shot in the film that is like 10 seconds before the end of the film and I realized that George and company were alluding to something bigger here:
This, my friends is a Tabula Rasa. A blank slate. Actually, literally, it’s a Sella Rasa. Or blank chair! hahah. John Locke posited this philosophical idea that when humans are born they come into the world Tabula Rasa, or with a blank slate. You know, empty of rules, or data, and that over time, these rules and the various data necessary to live life are acquired as you went via your sensorial experiences. Here we have a similar idea in the Blank Chair. My first time through the film I assumed that this was a pretty ordinary shot. We know what was on the chair, they even remind us what was once there, “Estella’s Bathroom.” And so I assumed that this would dawn on Ethan, and he would dutifully write Estella’s Bathroom once again in order to complete the circle.
The reason this question is important is because all time travel movies are about the question of free will or determinism. Do we have the ability to change our fates? Or are we determined to live the life set out for us from the beginning of time. (Two of the best recent shows discussing this question are Dark and Devs. Both grapple with this question brilliantly.) And I believe that that is what we have here in this movie, our tabula rasa? moment. Are our slates blank? Or are they filled, predetermined?
I have to say that for a low budget (no budget?) time travel movie, this little flick was a lot of fun. Was the acting great? No. Not even a bit. There were moments of of overacting so overblown I paused it for a good laugh. My favorite moment was when Fiona and Roman were talking outside of the restaurant. Fiona is dabbing at Roman’s face, and he’s cackling like a 1950’s henchman. It was a stellar moment. But even with acting performances at an 11, I had a ton of fun with this little movie. Totally reminds me of the movie 41… you know, that time travel movie from Australia? Another super low budget film, but still a lot of fun as well. And I just have to shout out to Mr. Moïse and his team that pulled this movie off. Because I couldn’t have kept all the balls in the air. It was well done.
Speaking of which, I enjoyed it so much that I went looking for George Moïse to see if he’d be open to talking about it. And I’ll bring you that conversation in the next couple days. It was fun to see just a little bit about how the meatloaf was made, and to learn a few of the ins and outs of how Counter Clockwise came together. Can’t wait to bring that conversation to you.
Edited by: CY