Look, there’s good, there’s bad, there’s even great, but everyone once in a while you find the film which achieves a certain, polished B-Movie perfection, upon which all the lesser gods of moviedom have conferred all the absurd breakneck fun and non-stop invention that can only be found in all its purity in a movie made in a hurry on a budget.
I mean, most movies will just say, “okay, that’s enough” once you’ve thrown in undersea submarine action and the Bermuda Triangle, but true B-Movie perfection will reply. “That’s a pretty good start, what else have you got?”
And that sort of “throw everything in, then start grabbing all the kitchen sinks you can find, just in case” attitude is on display in Time Under Fire. Here we have all the classics: flashbacks, the hero locked in an asylum, a dual role, ray guns, cyborgs, the Emperor’s throne from Return of the Jedi, Nazis in the future, a revolution against an oppressive government, weird science, cloning, undersea battles, a car chase, a polluted future, the one man who can lead the rebellion, and a complex, paradoxical time-looping plot.
There’s more than that, but you get the idea.
Now, I’ll admit that a lot of this is borrowed (and not just a few riffs on other classic B’s like John Connor from The Terminator, or those helmets from the V miniseries): I mean borrowed directly from other films, like the submarine scenes borrowed from Crimson Tide or the car chase from Barb Wire.
Nor is there any guarantee that a film which does so much on so little, while borrowing everything it can that isn’t actually locked down, will ever work. In fact, all you have to do is look at something like Space Mutiny (1988) to see how badly it can all go wrong.
It almost seems a fluke when it all fits together — particularly when it works this well.
I suppose it helps that we have two rather good actors playing the hero and the villain, with Jeff Fahey as the Navy commander whose sub barely makes it home again after a devastating encounter with a portal to the future and a futuristic warship; and Brian Cranston playing the sinister villain: a treasonous politician turned iron-fisted (if a bit giggly) dictator.
And, when everything seems to have been resolved, and we’re all ready for our happy ending and ride into the sunset, well there’s still another ten minutes or so left, and we’ve got the next few unexpected plot twists (some of which we expect by now) to get through.
It may wear you out, but Time Under Fire keeps finding new twists, new surprises and even a few left hand turns into the unexpected.
It’s not perfect or great, or even particularly original, but it is fun, fast paced, and always entertaining, in a silly B-Movie sort of way.
And that’s actually pretty impressive. Certainly you don’t find many B-Movies this entertaining.
Although, as with any goofy B-Movie guilty pleasure, your mileage may vary.
But if you are looking for some pulpy, Sci Fi fun, Time Under Fire is a good place to start…