Dramas tend to be critical favorites because it gives the scribes the chance to wax poetically over their favorite actors, actresses, and subject matter. Comedies, by comparison, work to ease the viewers’ anxieties by transporting them somewhere else where they can laugh their cares away. Horror films exist to explore not only what goes bump in the night but why we run the risk of being digested by those very monsters. And thrillers tend to put in extra elbow grease hoping to elevate your pulse, get you caught up in all of the action and intrigue, and leave you exhausted with the final reel.
But SciFi – not just good SciFi but great SciFi – presents a concept that might require a suspension of disbelief (to varying degrees) all for the sole purpose of weaving a yarn arguably the only way it can be spun. Like a house of cards, you can’t remove that central premise without running the risk of everything toppling over; yank it out, and you’re most often left with not so much a house as you are a mess. Dare I suggest that this is why mainstream audiences generally avoid Science Fiction? Do they look elsewhere for their diversions because SciFi requires too much of their brain with little room left to be suitably entertained?
Whatever the case, I’ve long argued that blending Science Fiction with Comedy is a risky proposition. Laughs and brainwork don’t often go hand-in-hand, but when storytellers can hit on the precise recipe they’re typically rewarded with big box office. Films like Ghostbusters (1984), Back To The Future (1985) and Tremors (1990) don’t come along all that often; but audiences have embraced them time and time again despite some SciFi or Fantasy proposition, and the end result has been solid returns, critical praise, and a demand to go back into that well for similar adventures. Studio executives celebrate those opportunities because they’re few and far between.
As independent fare goes, Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes stakes out similar territory, though on a vastly lower budget and corresponding media fanfare. What it has in spades, however, is old-fashioned movie-making charm.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“A café owner discovers that the TV in his café shows images from the future, but only two minutes into the future.”
Now I ask you: which of us hasn’t wanted to know what the future holds? Without question, such a subject has been a singular fascination for us culturally since … well … since we were all put on this rock in space. Films, TV shows, and books have breached the topic of time travel in just about every conceivable way; and yet Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes kinda/sorta upends this obsession of ours by scaling it way back to the point of absurdity. So now I ask you: what changes could you make to your life if you knew what the next two minutes held?
Indeed, it’s all meant for laughs, and Makoto Ueda’s script very cunningly finds one way after another to sustain our interest in such an idea. In fact, it isn’t long that these local yokels find themselves not only trying to capitalize on the clever circumstance but also come up with a way to expand it out to four minutes, six minutes, eight minutes, etc. Knowing the future means you can profit from it in the present, especially when that means knowing which square to scratch off on a lottery ticket. Before you know it, each member of this gaggle has found some form of personal enhancement, and they resist Kato’s dire prediction that knowing too much is never a good thing. (FYI: he’s soon proven right!)
It’s final message?
Enjoy today … while you still have it.
I’d be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention that the film has also garnered a fair amount of praise on the festival circuit. At the 2021 Fantafestival, director Junta Yamaguchi took home the ‘Golden Bat’ Award for ‘Best Film.’ At the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival, the flick won in both the ‘Best Asian Feature’ and ‘Special Mention’ categories. And at the 2021 Fantasy Filmfest, Yamaguchi was again graced with the trophy for ‘Best Feature.’
Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes (2020) is produced by Tollywood. Beginning on January 25th, the feature will be available in VOD platforms including iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, iNDemand, and DISH.
As time travel comedies go, Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes really stakes out fairly limited territory. Its participants are only able to ‘travel’ a handful of minutes into the future, and it isn’t really time travel so much as it is accessing information from a narrow spectrum. But the cast and crew – working from what appears to be a single take production – get incredible mileage out of the SciFi framework, delivering some of the most charming laughs, homespun performances, and even lesser bits of tension required to make all of this entertaining. At just over an hour in length, it’s a fabulous short film that would probably show some blemishes were it any longer. It’s also easy to see why the flick has been the darling of the festival circuit. Hats off to a project very well done.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Justin Cook PR provided me with a complimentary streaming link of Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.