“Instead of a dense foreign film what I got was a very engaging, hilarious take on a story that is complex but presented in a digestible way.”
Last night I watched Cronos which is Guillermo del Toro’s directorial (at least in film) debut. Cronos is about a watchmaker from the 1500’s who made a mechanism that allowed the user eternal life. Now, in the year (circa) 1993, an antique dealer named Jesús Gris discovered this very device in his shop. He not only has to figure out what it is in his possession, but also why it is so important to the very scary man named Angel who is pursuing him.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t expect Cronos to be as good as it was. Why is that? well, I don’t really know to be honest. Well actually I do know, but to say it out loud would cement the feeling of stupidity that I feel crawling deep inside of me, so I’ll just keep it to myself. The point I’m trying to make is that Cronos was a really good movie. The thing I liked most about Cronos was the fact that the idea was so intricate and detailed, and yet the execution was so simple and engaging. Cronos strikes a lovely balance between giving you too much information, and leaving you wanting more. Sure there are times where you wish for some more exposition, but as it stands Cronos exists in this lovely place where you don’t really need to know where you’re going, only that you’re along for the ride. Bringing this rather outlandish story to life would have been difficult for anyone other than del Toro, because even at this early stage in his career he nailed every aspect; especially things that you would think would be lesser at the beginning of his career like the effects. Cronos delivers amazing practical effects that really nail the uneasy feeling that the movie gives off. I don’t want to spoil anything, but seeing the changes that the main character went through throughout the film was pretty breathtaking, although I knew that the effects used weren’t super complicated. But it doesn’t matter how complex something is, only if it works; and every effect in Cronos worked. Even things like the interior shots of the cronos device astounded me because it was something that wasn’t needed, but del Toro made sure to build the set and shoot the scenes and include them, and they gave the movie so much. Sure some may call ventures like that gratuitous, but life without a little gratuity here and there would be dull (trust me).
The story of Cronos is, like I said, one that is simple yet complex. It is complex in its simplicity, and simple in its complexity. The film finds a way to deliver this very gothic, involved story in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. And this isn’t just going to be vague praise, because now we’re getting to some examples. Something that Cronos did well to engage the audience was to break up its tone a few times, to kind of lull them into a sense of security. Cronos is a movie that gets pretty fucked up, I can think of one scene off the top of my head that will stay there for years to come, but it wins the audience back by also being pretty fucking hilarious. The humour in Cronos is what I would call “dark”, but that works for me. The jokes never feel out of place, but at the same time they kind of catch you off guard. One minute I’m dealing with thoughts based on the idea of mortality, and the next minute I’m laughing at a well-timed joke about cremation. It truly is a testament to just how good this movie is. Cronos had a plot that was engaging, and the film was short, but that doesn’t mean that it was without issues. I found the middle of the film to kind of drag a little bit, but I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly why I feel that way. I mean the movie had stuff happening, but for some reason I got kind of fidgety in the middle. I’m pretty sure it was because the plot was one that I knew the trajectory of. There were still surprises in Cronos, but at the time of me feeling this way I thought I knew where the story was headed and wanted it to hurry up. This isn’t the fault of the film necessarily, but I can’t really ignore my feelings (because then what would I be? Not much different from what I already am, I suppose). I also really liked the performances in the Cronos. Frederico Luppi and Ron Perlman do great jobs as the film’s ‘yin and yang’, but I also really liked Tamara Shanath’s performance as Aurora. She didn’t say much, but she was a huge driving force behind a lot of the plot, and she sold it. I also really liked the music in the film which I thought was classical, but also really beautiful and catchy (which is a great metaphor for the film itself if you think about it).
Overall Cronos is a movie that really surprised me. I’m not sure why it surprised me but it did. Instead of a dense foreign film what I got was a very engaging, hilarious take on a story that is complex but presented in a digestible way. Everything about this movie from the effects, the performances, and even the music is done in such a beautiful way that it is hard not to love it.
I give Cronos a B