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Time after time: ‘The Delinquents’ and ‘Sixty Minutes’

An anti-thriller from Argentina and an action film from Germany have little in common except a fascination with time

A scene from 'The Delinquents'
A scene from 'The Delinquents'

"We have to find some sort of advantage. Outside, they don’t have any. And in here we have plenty of it. Time.” Morán (Daniel Elías), glowering and bloodied, listens to Garrincha (Germán de Silva) in the prison yard. He’s lingered too long on the communal phone and earned himself a beating. Soon, he’ll be paying a tribute to the old con for the privilege of an ‘easy time’ in prison. It’s unlikely he’s paying attention to the lecture, yet this is the most direct invocation of a central theme in The Delinquents: the passage of time.

Rodrigo Moreno’s 2023 film, streaming on MUBI, goes nowhere fast, in ways that are initially surprising and then beguiling. It’s three hours long, but Moreno doesn’t use the expansive length as many directors might, to add characters and subplots. Instead, there are discursions, repetitions, reveries. Time expands gently, turning our viewing meditative.

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The overarching joke is that The Delinquents is, on the face of it, a heist movie. Indeed, the first 24 minutes detail the most leisurely bank robbery you are ever likely to see. Morán, a clerk in a Buenos Aires bank, goes about his day and eventually walks out with $650,000. Later, he meets up with Roman, a colleague from the bank. He tells him about the theft and proposes a deal: he will confess and go to jail for three years, while Roman keeps the money safe and splits it with him when he’s out. Roman isn’t keen but, after some convincing and a casual threat to implicate him, he agrees.

Roman—increasingly nervous to keep the money in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend—takes Morán’s advice and heads to the remote countryside. He stashes the loot there, and on the way back comes across three friendly strangers, who invite him over to share their lunch. He’s immediately infatuated with one of the women, who’s as carefree as he’s careworn. It’s the start of his growing realisation that, with the security of money, he now has time to reflect, even waste. We see him relax, speak ramblingly about a doggerel he once heard, play a geography game.

Visually too, Moreno shows time unfolding unhurriedly. Scenes are allowed to play out as they would in life—a cigarette break, a scooter pursuing a bus. The transitions are uniquely distended, images superimposed for 10, 15 seconds. It might sound like slow cinema but strikes me as more light-footed than what that genre usually offers. There’s Rohmer in the film’s talkiness and sun-kissed photography (by Alejo Maglio and Inés Duacastella), and Rivette and Ruiz in its sense of mischief (the names of five principal characters are anagrams). A revelation kicks off the final third of the film but this is just an excuse for the narrative to loop back in time and start another cycle of gradual self-discovery.

A scene from 'Sixty Minutes'
A scene from 'Sixty Minutes'

The other film I saw this weekend is only half the length of Moreno’s, coming in at a taut 88 minutes. It’s as switched-on and propulsive as The Delinquents is relaxed. This 2024 German action film (on Netflix) is happy to operate within the bounds of its genre. There are no digressions, and the only reveries are when someone gets knocked out. Going from the world of Moreno’s film, where time ceases to matter, to one where time is perpetually running out, was weirdly thrilling, like a cold dip after a sauna.

We know from the title itself—Sixty Minutes—that time is crucial. Oliver Kienle’s film keeps reminding us of this, setting and resetting timers, tracking progress on maps. It unfolds in Berlin, where MMA fighter Octavio (Emilio Sakraya) is gearing up for a big match. He’s distracted—it’s his daughter’s birthday, and he promised he’d bring her a cake and a surprise. A phone call from his estranged wife telling her she’s filing for sole custody if he doesn’t turn up has him high-tailing it out of the venue. He has an hour to get to her—and the rest of the film unfolds in real time (nothing makes him madder than the unhelpful pet shelter employee who, when informed it’s not yet closing time yet, says “Maybe on your watch”).

In throwing the fight, Octavio makes himself a target of Chino, the promoter, who has several bets hinging on the result. Chino is in debt to a local mafia, and they come after Octavio too. The film smartly waits a while before a punch is thrown in anger, but after that it explodes into action and keeps it going till the very end. The fights are charged, messy: the opening brawl in an alley, another in a cake shop, a four-on-four rumble in a dojo, and Sakraya slugging it out with his opponent from the abandoned match (Aristo Luis) in a disco. Even when he isn’t fighting, Octavio is in perpetual motion, barrelling towards an appointment we know he can’t make.

Sixty Minutes has the breathless energy of German films like Run Lola Run (1998) and Victoria (2015), though it’s a less ambitious undertaking than either, happy to hit genre beats and win audiences over with a sad child and an adorable kitten. Sakraya grounds the film wonderfully—assured and laconic when he’s fighting, open and vulnerable when it comes to his family. Time isn’t on his side, but at least he doesn’t have to look for an advantage: he has something to fight for.

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