Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 42 minutes, Director – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
A paramedic’s (Jamie Dornan) daughter (Ally Ioannides) goes missing after seemingly taking a drug linked to multiple deaths in the area, meanwhile his co-worker (Anthony Mackie) discovers the pill’s time travel abilities.
Don’t let the Doctor Who style chaos of Synchronic’s opening sequence turn you away. While it may start with an unexplained attack as plants appear to grow in a woman’s bedroom before being attacked by a mysterious figure, and another unsuspecting victim in a malfunctioning lift there’s a fair deal of originality to this blend of sci-fi, thriller and drama with potential hints of horror and cult influence. Co-directors Justin Benson (who also servers as writer) and Aaron Moorhead create an almost dystopian modern day world from the beginning of this genre mixture. They throw their two protagonists, paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) into a dark world of mysterious and gruesome deaths. While some seem like drug overdoses others are marked by deep wounds, petrified expressions and strange objects that appear to be from another world or age. The one thing that appears to link each death is that the victim took a new drug known as Synchronic just before dying.
However, after the film builds up various connections between character’s and shows us once or twice more just how bad these mysterious deaths – or murders? – are, the pair attend a call where Dennis’ daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides), was known to be. However, instead of being found dead she’s completely disappeared, presumed missing by the friends she was with. While Dornan’s worried father frantically searches for her, putting pleas all across town and on social media – the tragedy taking a toll on his marriage – his co-worker frantically buys all remaining Synchronic pills in heated anger. After an interaction with the drug’s creator (Ramiz Monsef) Steve discovers that the pill briefly transports people back in time, often nearby to someone or something that tries to attack and kill the magically appearing figure.
Mackie easily becomes the core focus of the film as he investigates and experiments with the drug, putting himself at risk as he tries to learn more about it. It’s during such scenes that the pace truly picks up and the originality of the film shines. With a limited amount of pills, yet still enough to test going back in time a handful of times, he learns that Brianna is trapped at some unknown point in the past, having been unable to return, and must find her and understand how the rules of time-travel work. One thing’s for sure, it’s certainly not like Back To The Future he agitatedly points out at a bar TV, after a bad experience he claims the only good thing about the past was the music. However, as he uncovers more things certainly don’t get any easier. His life is put further at risk and he realises the true risks and consequences of trying to get his friend’s daughter back. All while Dornan finds himself losing hope, and, like Mackie’s character already has, slowly turning to drink – something that is only really glimpsed at.
Throughout the rules and ideas that Benson’s screenplay comes up with prove to be highly inventive, truly showing its influence from a number of cult sci-fi films. They lead to further engagement, and during some scenes a mild amount of tension, from the viewer within the world that has been created. While things do initially start off slowly things certainly become more engaging as they go on, and once you know how the film itself works this could very likely be something that works better with re-watches. However, for the first viewing while it might take some time to get going with one or two repeated elements there’s enough inventiveness and originality to make Synchronic worthwhile. Using a number of elements from its influences to its advantages this might not be a complete trip, but it’s certainly a strong enough mixture to provide some interest and entertainment for just under two hours.
Using its inventiveness and influences to its advantage put aside the repetition during the first half and Synchronic is an enjoyable, and at times slightly tense, blend of genres, the type we don’t often see nowadays.