What is time? Simply a man-made construction designed to make our lives more linear. For years and years, the lives of Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) have been linear. Not great, but linear. The two are longtime paramedics partners in New Orleans, growing up together and experiencing many trials, tribulations, and generally the bleak aftermath of situations. Personally, Steve is seemingly destined to be the eternal bachelor, while Dennis is a family man dealing with the moodiness of his eighteen year-old daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides).
A string of recent on-call fatal stops bring up disturbing connective tissue. At the scene of every incident is “Synchronic,” a designer drug meant to open a person’s “third eye” and take them places they’ve never been before. As the two begin to find out more on what this man-made concoction truly is, they are drawn—literally and figuratively—into a race against time as they attempt to save Brianna and themselves from irrevocable harm.
Throw End of Watch, Limitless, Source Code, and True Detective season 1 (also taking place in the Louisiana Bayou with a brief moment that seems to take inspiration from the one shot) in a blender and the finished product that emerges may look something like Synchronic. This is a feature that does and tries to be a lot of things without doing one explicitly well. Nevertheless, it is a movie that does manage to keep a viewer’s attention to the last second of runtime.
Synchronic is the fourth feature length film from co-directing, producing, and writing partners Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Morehead. Their catalog has long consisted of topsy-turvy, genre-melding fare with a horror focus always being the genesis point. Their latest movie is a graduation of sorts from the purely indie style their other movies possessed. That is not taking away anything from their first three works—it is merely observing that Synchronic is working with a larger budget.
The duo has a love for the trippy psychedelic, seen no more clearly than a beautifully bizarre seven minute start. With that said, something feels slightly lost in the way of presentation and vividness viewing at home versus potentially being enhanced on a silver screen compared to other films released during the pandemic. Though this is the type of sci-fi, star(ish)-less wide release that profiles as a financial bomb and out of theaters quickly in a pre-COVID world (the movie is getting a limited release beginning this Friday), having the realistic option of viewing in its intended fashion would be ideal.
Synchronic is somewhat similar to another recent October release in Black Box. Much like that movie, its setup and subject matter would portend a deeper and darker narrative lending itself to scares and ponderous thought. For the former, it is hard to view this as a horror outside of the beginning. As it pertains to the latter, Benson and Morehead’s script is very interested in the specifics of time travel. Good on them for giving the mechanics significant thought, but as most flicks involving time travel tend to be, even the best laid rules tend to play loose.
As brainy as it seems to suggest itself as, really, Synchronic is a basic story distilled to two ideas. One: Cherishing the now—no matter how stressful/bleak scenarios are—should not be taken for granted. Two: A deep friendship can overcome those bleakest and endlessly stressful scenarios. Synchronic is strongest as a tale of friendship, courtesy of an endearing chemistry between Mackie, again showing a different range when not donning the steel wings, and Dornan, perhaps now on the spectrum side of “underrated” as a thespian. Together, they make an unlikely but satisfying (and sneaky hilarious) tandem worth being invested in, despite their individual stories being vastly different.
Large in scope but small and intimate at its core, Synchronic isn’t quite the sci-fi philosophical mind-bending high it could be. However, remove the time traveling elements, and it is a bit timely. We can never get back time or be guaranteed of it in the future, but we can make the absolute most of the current time we are gifted with.
Photo credits go to syfy.com, impawards.com, screenrant.com, and deadline.com.
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Not many movies are exclusively released to theaters these days. ‘The War with Grandpa’ was the biggest hit released this Fall. It made $13 million. These are indeed strange times.
Absolutely, Mark. Game changing times. If this were released in theaters though, I imagine it would underperform with its setup and tendency for vague sci-fi movies to bomb at the box office.