We all have regrets in our lives. Bad things we’ve done or said to others. Things we didn’t do, and wish we had. Terrible events that befell us or loved ones that forever changed us.
If there was an opportunity to return to the past to make things right, would we take it? This is the intriguing question raised in two very different movies about time travel at SBS On Demand.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed is a quirky romantic indie flick with sci-fi overtones. The 2012 English-language film sees Aubrey Plaza as Darius Britt, an emotionally damaged young woman working as an unpaid intern at Seattle Magazine.
During an ideas meeting, cynical staffer Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson) proposes an article about a newspaper ad he’s found where the author seeks a companion for a time-travelling adventure.
The story gets the green light from his editor and Jeff selects Darius and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) to come with him to the seaside holiday town of Ocean View to track down the person who wrote the ad.
While Darius and Arnau set about locating the mystery person for a profile piece, Jeff has an ulterior motive in travelling to Ocean View: to reconnect with an old high school flame, Liz (Jenica Bergere).
Darius finds the person behind the ad, a grocery store employee called Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who eventually reveals to her that he wants to return to the past to prevent the death of a former girlfriend.
Darius has her own personal reason to sign on to join Kenneth, even though she’s unsure whether the sweet if weird guy’s outlandish plan is legitimate. Over the next few days, as she grows closer to Kenneth, facts come to light that make Darius question his motives and mental stability, and whether his time machine even exists.
And what’s the connection between the amateur inventor’s activities and the two mysterious government officials following him?
Safety Not Guaranteed was written by Derek Connolly and is based on a real event from 1997, when Backwoods Home staffer John Silveira wrote a gag fake ad for the magazine that read:
“WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 322 Oakview, CA 93022. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
It was meant to be funny, but it turns out the joke was on Silveira. The ad went viral and even got a mention on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. He received thousands of letters from people wanting to take up his offer, some of them desperate to fix a traumatic past event.
“Dozens, in prison, asked me to go back and talk them out of committing the crime that put them away,” he writes in a 2010 article in Backwoods Home. “Others (and not a few) were from people who begged me to save a loved one from a tragic death.”
The film was the first major feature from director Colin Trevorrow, who was headhunted by Hollywood three years later to helm the big-budget Jurassic World and its 2018 sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He was joined by Connolly, with the pair collaborating on both screenplays.
One has to assume that, if asked, neither man would return to 2012 and change a single thing, seeing how bright their futures have become.
Safety Not Guaranteed is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Whether or not people can really travel to the past isn’t a theory in the 1994 sci-fi thriller Timecop, it’s a fact. And there’s even a special police force, the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC), employed to stop people from committing crimes in the past and potentially damaging the timeline.
In the English-language film, martial arts legend Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Max Walker, an embittered TEC agent in 2004 still struggling to cope with the murder of his wife Melissa (Mia Sara) 10 years earlier at the hands of assassins.
Max learns of a conspiracy involving US presidential hopeful Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver) who is sending thugs back to steal money from various historic periods including the American Civil War and the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
Meanwhile, in 2004, McComb is agitating to get the TEC closed down so there will be nobody around to oppose his nefarious activities. At the same time, he plans to kill the one TEC agent in a position to stop him. When a routine mission to 1994 goes awry, it leads to Max making a momentous decision – he’ll try to save Melissa’s life, even though he knows it could lead to catastrophic changes to the future.
The movie – based on a 1992 comic book written by Mike Richardson and Mark Verheiden – will send some viewers barmy with its time paradoxes and plot holes big enough to drive a car-sized time machine through. So it’s best to not think too hard about them. Instead, relax and enjoy seeing Van Damme kick the ever-living bejeezus out of a bunch of evil scumbags.
And, thanks to SBS On Demand, fans don’t need to travel to the past to appreciate Timecop again and again and again.
Timecop is now streaming at SBS On Demand.