- Eddie Harrison
- 6 March 2020
GFF 2020: Intriguing but ultimately disappointing sci-fi from cult directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
With well-received films such as Spring and The Endless behind them, cult directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have cultivated a solid reputation in sci-fi / horror circles. Sadly, their latest, Synchronic, while boasting an initially intriguing time travel story, ultimately plays out in a disappointingly conventional way.
Marvel star Anthony Mackie plays Steve, a New Orleans paramedic who finds evidence of a designer drug called Synchronic beside a number of fresh cadavers. Learning that he has a potentially terminal health condition, Steve tries out the drug on himself, and discovers he can travel in time. Meanwhile, Steve's paramedic partner Dennis (Fifty Shades' Jamie Dornan) has his own pressing problem when he realises that his beloved daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) has taken the drug and vanished, leaving him to try to track her down.
The designer drug element is very similar to the film and TV show Limitless, and Synchronic tediously evokes Back to the Future in its dialogue and during a silly scene where Steve tries to time travel with his dog. Despite some gruesome detail, a horror film this is assuredly not, but nor do the filmmakers seem at all interested in the science behind their science-fiction. Time travel is just a device by which the characters solve a mystery, and the solution featured is neither novel nor interesting.
Although Synchronic has been reworked and re-edited on the festival circuit, there are still tonal issues with a film that balances real-life tragedy with wacky sci-fi tropes. There's evidence that Benson and Moorhead can handle a larger budget and stars yet, with all the endless exposition and setting out of rules, there's little opportunity for human interest. Dennis's drunken philosophising makes him a resistible foil for the traumatised Steve and, once the punchline arrives, it's clear that this unhappy marriage of soap opera and genre flick could have done with a great deal more thinking through.
Screened on Thu 5 Mar as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020. General release TBC.