Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, 2021.
Directed by Junta Yamaguchi.
Starring Kazunari Tosa, Riko Fujitani, Gota Ishida, Masashi Suwa, and Yoshifumi Sakai.
A cafe owner discovers that the TV in his cafe suddenly shows images from the future, but only two minutes into the future.
As proof of what can be achieved on a miniscule budget with sufficient invention and determination, debuting director Dir Junat Yamaguchi’s Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is downright inspiring, spinning an uncommonly singular time travel comedy yarn inside of a drum-tight 70 minutes.
Cafe owner Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is unwinding with his guitar in his apartment when his computer monitor suddenly flickers to life and a version of himself from two minutes in the future begins speaking to him. Kato discovers that his monitor can see two minutes into the future while the TV in the cafe downstairs, where his future self is broadcasting from, can see two minutes into the past, setting Kato and his pals off on a brilliantly labyrinthine and eventually quite dangerous temporal odyssey.
Far more than a mere low-budget sci-fi flick, Yamaguchi shoots his dizzyingly creative story to resemble a single-take, and while the seams are easily noticeable to anyone who’s seen enough “one-r” movies, it’s easy to forgive considering that the entire movie was shot on an iPhone.
The technical logistics of executing this vision are, frankly, headache-inducing; the pre-recorded messages from past and present are timed with note-perfect precision to the in-camera “current” performances. Coordinating camera coverage must’ve been nothing short of nightmarish – as an end credits behind-the-scenes montage seems to confirm – especially with the film being divided into a number of long takes sewn together through clever editing.
Narratively it’s no less a noodle-baker, and as the story becomes increasingly complex – particularly when the characters discover an ingenious way to amplify their windows into past and future – it’s best to simply let the fast-moving temporal spaghetti wash over you. Hilariously, the characters are often as confused as viewers are likely to be, though Makoto Ueda’s script knows just when to slow things down and verbalise a snappy expository beat to ensure everyone’s keeping up.
Compared to, say, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, there’s a far greater sense of playful inquisitiveness re: the nature of time. While in both this and Nolan’s film you may have more than your fair share of questions left hanging by the end, in this case it’s rarely due to feeling like the filmmakers are trying to excessively obfuscate things on purpose.
Without getting too specific about any of the film’s many exciting surprises, it expertly visualises chicken-and-egg causality and the very notion of determinism vs. free will, as Kato and his friends consider how they can exploit a window into the near-future for their own gain. The obvious possibilities are considered – namely the acquisition of wealth – though the film pointedly subverts many of the tropes associated with the “advantages” of time travel.
Ueda’s script continually evolves and refines the central conceit to become more nested and delirious, ensuring that the breezy runtime absolutely flies by. The cast meanwhile does a remarkable job playing consistently across time loops while matching the audience’s own weathered exasperation with the intentionally mind-melting story.
Like its spiritual predecessor One Cut of the Dead, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes proves to be a triumph of imagination over money. The shoestring budget lends the film a made-at-home quality – we can even see the world going on by outside the coffee shop window throughout – while its conceptual elan easily papers over its hokier technical edges (such as Kato’s monitor having the longest power cable in existence, allowing him to carry it from his apartment to the cafe). That the filmmakers even manage to fold a cute, organic romance into the hilariously heady shenanigans inside of such a short runtime is no less a triumph.
Mind-boggling in both its narrative creativity and low-fi technical ingenuity, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes delivers a rare truly fresh take on the time travel movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.