Time Bomb (DVD Review)1 Jun, 2008 By: David Greenberg
Prebook 6/3/08; Street 7/1/08
Stars Jake Busey, David Haydn-Jones, Daniel Cook.
Evoking the very best of the wonderful post-Watergate/Vietnam War-era paranoid thrillers of the early-to-mid 1970s and then updating the milieu, Time Bomb is a welcome surprise that should really please, provoke and captivate fans of psychologically intense political/military conspiracy stories.
Busey gives a terrific performance as complicated, difficult and deeply troubled Iraq war veteran Jason Philby, haunted by memories of his tenure on the battlefield and tormented by guilt over the death of his young son. Horrifying images of both experiences constantly invade his dreams and begin to meld and creep into his waking hours, creating a combustible existence where the question of what is real, imaginary or something even more sinister becomes increasingly pervasive.
Director Erin Berry has fashioned an impressive mix of Jacob's Ladder and The Manchurian Candidate. Additionally, he invokes elements of Martin Scorsese's quintessential Taxi Driver — overtly by having Busey's character driving a cab and obsessively stalking his ex-wife, as well as subtly employing a very minor supporting character, Senator Palantine, much like the presidential candidate targeted by Travis Bickle.
Tying together narrative strands that include post-traumatic stress disorder, chemical weapons, human guinea pigs, suicide bombers, religious convictions, spontaneous combustion and 9/11, the film has a rich, nightmarish style that utilizes distinctive visual techniques to differentiate between the Iraq sequences (recalling the best Gulf War films such as Three Kings and Jarhead) and the scenes of stateside life.
As impressive, sophisticated and engaging as the narrative and sub-textual elements of the plot are, the production itself is something of a marvel. Berry takes what, to the trained eye, is probably a fairly modest budget and cleverly stages action scenes, creepy interrogation sequences and operating-room settings that completely succeed within — maybe even because of — the financial constraints and suffers absolutely no loss of cinematic quality.