Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (Review): Infinitely Clever
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a small-scale, hilarious, wonderfully inventive, and laudably precise time travel story.
As a huge fan of good science fiction, I love inventive uses of time-travel in stories. In particular, I love films like Twelve Monkeys, Looper, and Tenet, that really explore how time travel works and how its nature can even feed into the psychology of the characters. And now, I can add Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes to that list. From the very start to the very finish, this Japanese science-fiction comedy greatly entertained and impressed me. Directed by Junta Yamaguchi and written by Makoto Ueda, the film features a café owner named Kato (Kazunari Tosa) who discovers that a monitor in his room is somehow showing him two minutes into the future via another monitor in the café. When his friends and coworkers get in on the discovery, they exploit what they dub the “Time TV” to their benefit and attempt to manipulate the two screens to show them the past and future beyond the initial two-minute limit.
When I say I was entertained from the very start, I mean it, because this 70-minute film jumps into the plot almost right away. The mechanics behind the Time TV are really simple and quick to grasp, yet they open up such a wide range of possibilities that the story takes full advantage of in its limited run time. It’s a very approachable take on the idea. You see and relate to how every character reacts to the discovery, and there are really funny ways of testing the Time TV out, such characters performing “magic tricks” based on their knowledge of the future, or giddily receiving texts two minutes ago that they themselves sent. It’s so much fun and had me grinning ear-to-ear, and it’s made even better by the actors’ charismatic performances. When the group starts manipulating their two monitors to see further back and ahead, that allows for even more entertaining, and even kind of trippy, shenanigans and ideas.
Then you also have Kato’s less enthused reaction to all of this. He makes it clear that he’s opposed to the future dictating the actions of the present, and you ultimately learn why he feels that way based on how such a thing has led him astray throughout his life. He’s a sympathetic pawn to the outcomes set in stone and the antics of his friends. Even when he has to be the hero, later on, he’s forced to blindly throw himself at the will of what’s already been determined to happen. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes addresses the nature of self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to these kinds of time loops. There are a few instances in the film where characters do things not because they want to, but because they know they have to our else they’ll create a paradox. This is my favorite aspect of time loops in stories. In pretty much every portrayal of them, questions get raised about the nature of free will versus pre-determined fate. Although those themes are somewhat downplayed here, they’re still present and contribute to the arcs of a few characters.
But by far, the most impressive part of Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is how it’s filmed. I can verify that each two-minute gap between past, present, and future events is indeed authentically two minutes. How? Because this entire film is one continuous shot. There are no cuts, and at no point was there any way the crew could have cut while making it look like one shot. This is not only immensely impressive on a technical level – imagine the nightmare of having to get every performance, every movement of the camera, every bit of timing down perfectly in one go – but this method allows for precise passing of time as you become a fly on the wall, observing the low-key zaniness unfold and build. You discover everything in real time alongside the characters. This is even better with how perfectly everything is laid out, especially as the group’s use of the Time TV gets more elaborate. Even if you can’t wrap your head around how everything is working, the simple visuals and staging get it across well enough for you to follow along. There’s one instance where characters are positioned literally between past events and future events as they play out on the two screens. The intricacy that cinematographer and editor Junta Yamaguchi put into of every frame of this one-shot, small-budget film needs to be seen to be believed.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes has just a handful of tiny imperfections. A very minimalist musical score pops in on occasion, and it’s more awkward than anything else. There’s a sequence towards the end that feels very tagged on and doesn’t really further anything. The lead performance can be a little under-reactive. But none of these are major problems at all. They only combine to do the tiniest bit of damage to an otherwise ingeniously executed film. I enthusiastically recommend Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes. It’s funny, inventive, thoughtful, loaded with charm, and an absolute marvel of a low-budget production that deserves every ounce of attention and praise it can get.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes will be available on Digital HD and Cable VOD across North America from January 25, 2022.