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Friday, September 1, 2017

Prisoner X: Time Travel with a Twist

I'm always up for time travel - especially in a movie - so I was pleased when the Netflix DVD for Prisoner X, a 2016 movie by Gaurav Seth based on a story by Robert Reed, showed up in the mail today.  I should mention, before I continue, that Seth expressed some interest in making a movie from one of my time-travel stories almost almost a decade ago, but nothing came of it, and I've met Reed one or two times, and like his writing.  But, hey, that's not surprising, it's a small world - especially when it comes to time travel ...

Speaking of which, Prisoner X is quite good when it comes to what I regard as the basics of time travel.  The characters in a position to know indeed know that paradoxes engendered by travel to the past (such as accidentally preventing your grandparents from meeting, so how did you come to exist and travel to the past in the first place?), can be avoided by the multiple worlds/universes/realities scenario, in which every action in the past brings a new world/universe/reality into being.  (PL1 from World 1 travels to the past and gets in the way of his grandparents meeting.  This leads to World 2, in which there is no PL - but there's no problem or paradox invoked, because the fool who prevented his grandparents from meeting was PL1 from World 1, not from World 2.)  And the characters in Prisoner X also get that no such paradoxes are invoked in travel to the future.  (Though I'll also point out that travel to the future creates other profound problems, like the obliteration of free will, since if you travel to tomorrow and see me wearing a blue shirt, that interferes with my free will to wear a light green shirt tomorrow.  But that's another story.)

In any case, Prisoner X is good at that paradox and the past business, and even better with some excellent twists that come up near the end, and are thoroughly plausible in retrospect.  I won't tell you what those twists are, because I don't want to spoil your fun if you see the movie.

Otherwise, the plot in general is ok, featuring a time traveler from the future who claims to have a connection to a devastating Islamic attack on the world that happens in a not-so-distant future.  The most serious problem is not a specific part or point in that plot, but the general flavor of the story that is supposed to take place in 2017.  I get that the movie was released in 2016 and no doubt was in part made a few years before that.   But not only does the atmosphere feel nothing like Trump, it doesn't have much resonance with the Obama era either (even though ISIS is mentioned once), and feels like maybe sometime around 2005 or 2006 (with, among things, constant reference to Iraq).  And, in fact, Reed's Hugo-nominated story ("Truth," on which Prisoner X is based) was first published in 2008.

But that problem, though more than a quibble, doesn't interfere too much with the time travel and the twists, which makes Prisoner X well worth watching if you're a devotee of the genre.

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