When one thinks of space-time or nonlinear narrative films, the best-of-the-best, George Roy Hill’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1972) and Mike Nichols’ CATCH 22 (1970) come to mind. It helps, of course, that the former was based on Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 classic novel, and was as faithful as a novel-to-film transition could be; while the latter was based on Joseph Heller’s 1961 classic, and came close as an adaptation, with some character/situation amalgamations during the transition. Both books/films ran deep, were rooted in the insane horrors of war in general and World War 2 in specific. And both had a fantastic cast who gave it everything they had—which is one thing they have in common with 11:14.
11:14 stars Rachel Leigh Cook, Hilary Swank, Patrick Swayze, Barbara Hershy, Henry Thomas, Clark Gregg, Shawn Hatosy, Stake Sands, Colin Hanks, and Ben Foster. Whereas the narration in the afore mentioned classics wandered through time and space almost without discernable logic, the narration in 11:14 is divided into five tidy subtexts, each one ending at exactly 11:14 PM, each one beginning slightly earlier than the previous, each one involving some of the same cast of nine characters plus a pair of paramedics, and each one necessary to understanding the whole picture. By part 3 the entire cast has been introduced, the bodies identified. Parts 4 and 5 are dedicated to filling in the blanks.
All three films rely heavily on black humor. The satisfaction to be taken from CATCH 22, is in the fact that someone actually out-thinks and out-lasts the self serving dead-in-the-head bureaucracy that seemingly oversees all our lives, and its no-win circular logic. What satisfaction there is to be had from SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE is the (albeit comic) notion that there is something infinitely larger than ourselves overseeing the distinctly fatalistic forces that govern our lives, and they recommend you have a good time and make the best of it because that’s all you can do—shit happens. 11:14’s satisfaction is a bit more sadistic, namely, that self-centered assholes will inevitable self-destruct while being assholes, thank goodness.
11:14 is a bit too in love with it’s own methodology, but the acting, directing, editing, timing, et al, manage to overcome that flaw. From the opening credits, a bird’s-eye-view sequence in which the names of the various participants in the film appear moving like cars on a mildly intricate series of interconnected roads, and that every time a new name is introduced, the camera switches its allegiance and takes another route, only to double back on itself. So even if you hadn’t been exposed to any of the humongous hype surrounding the film just prior to its 2003 release, you’d still have an inkling as to the nature of the narrative you were about to witness.
The action centers around the Rachel Leigh Cook character, Cheri, although she isn’t really introduced until part 3 (even though she flits across the screen in parts 1 and 2) and the various men in her life—all of whom she is in some way using. It extends to several others, one relationship removed, a police officer who’s having a particularly bad night, and a trio of teenagers looking to cause as much mindless trouble as possible during a prankish joy ride. Along the way two fools die and another is horribly mutilated.
All in all it is an excellent way to spend an hour and a half at home. If you’ve somehow missed it on cable, it’s available from Amazon.com and your local library.
© 2013 Paul L. Bates