I’ve discussed time travel movies before, and now we add a unique South Korean film from 2013 to the list, AM 11:00.
We witness at first the tremendous energy of scientist Woo-seok to convince a wealthy Russian patron to fund his studies of black holes, intending to create an artificial wormhole with which to travel into the future.
Years later, the scientist and his helpers have a secret laboratory on an isolated island in the ocean, exploiting depth and pressure to increase the efficiency of the particle accelerator.
After all the millions invested, the Russian patron is tired of waiting and is about to close the lab, so the group agrees to test the machine and secure the backers’ trust with a simple 24-hour test trip into the future.
Because of the evacuation, the lab will be empty the next day, which would be ideal for retrieving tangible proof of the trip: a folder in a private cabinet, perfectly safe for the next 24 hours, with the renewed research contract inside.
So, Woo-seok enters the machine along with Young-eun, a young researcher whose father had laid the groundwork for creating the wormhole, but when they arrive in the future, they find the lab destroyed and in flames.
Also, as Woo-seok tries to retrieve the contract, someone attacks him from behind and attempts to kill him.
Miraculously escaping back into the present, the two investigate how everything could have gone irretrievably wrong in a single day by examining security camera footage they managed to retrieve from the future.
But as each of them begins to seriously fear dying, the group’s unity crumbles, and survival becomes an all-out fight with no rules.
24 hours are enough to change your life?
South Korean director Hyun-seok Kim directs an intriguing time-travel sci-fi with a claustrophobic atmosphere and a thriller-like plot development.
AM 11:00 is, all in all, a small movie with a reasonable budget, given 2013 standards, boasting an excellent cast and few but well-crafted special effects.
I especially appreciated that the pace gets going right away without losing its way in unnecessary scenes or characters, compressing a very dense plot into an hour and forty minutes of excellent sci-fi adventure entertainment.
As usual, the wonder of science sets the stage for the possibilities of technology before devolving into suspense as the connections among the many characters worsen and get more hazardous and unpredictable.
Also, another staple of time travel movies such as sagas like Terminator or Back to the Future, the question that we may or may not change the future while knowing the outcomes of our actions tomorrow is always present.
Seung-Hwan Lee‘s excellent screenplay turns the pleasant atmosphere of laboratory friendship into a dead-end hell when the interactions among the various scientists change dramatically, especially when they see in the videos of the future that one of them (we don’t know who) will be burned alive within few hours.
More than science fiction, the topic becomes human psychology at that point, with suspicion and distrust growing unchecked among these men and women, friends only the day before, ready to tear each other apart only hours later.
In conclusion, is only 24 hours enough to trigger a tiny apocalypse?
Undoubtedly, the fast pace and the grim setting that grows darker and burning fuels the intriguing plot, leading to an ending you must watch to the last second to actually appreciate it.
Three characters to break the continuum
At this point in each of my articles, I usually talk about the cast, but instead of describing every single scientist in this lab, I prefer to focus on the three characters that I consider to be pivotal.
Obviously, the first is the one we see from the beginning, Jung Jae-young, who, in his introduction, also serves as the narrator explaining to us viewers the scientific premise behind this time machine.
A machine they call Trotsky in honor of Lev Trocky, a key figure in the Russian Revolution of 1917 who was later assassinated by the Soviet secret service.
In short, a man who changed history just as the protagonist would like to do, wishing he could travel back in time in order to save his wife, who commits suicide after discovering she has an incurable disease.
Equally interesting is young Kim Ok-bin, another character we remain in doubt until the last moment, apparently disappearing upon returning from the future only to reappear just as mysteriously.
The girl is less cocky than the project leader, more humble, and respectful of a technology that she knows can be very dangerous, should it, by misfortune, fall into the wrong hands.
Not coincidentally, she will be the one who infects all the surveillance videos they retrieve in the future with a virus, forcing the group to wait while the computer decrypts the damaged files until it is too late to prevent the inevitable disaster.
If the girl represents conscience and the chief scientist instead of personal careerism, her boyfriend, played by Choi Daniel, stands somewhere between right and wrong.
Indeed, at first he too seems like a good guy, but the turn of events and the fear of death will test even his moral rigor.