Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, Ally Ioannides, Ramiz Monsef
Benson and Moorhead have certainly made their mark on genre
cinema in the last ten years. Multiple films that bridged fantasy, horror, and
science fiction with thoughtful drama, humor, and artfulness have all been met
with critical and audience praise. Their approach to high brow angles on
classic B-grade concepts makes for provocative and impressive filmmaking and
their latest, Synchronic, only solidifies the pattern of their abilities
as directors and writers. Dark, heartfelt, and character-driven, the science
fiction thrills of the film inspires thought as much as it entertains. It’s an
especially effective balance and the combination of skills provides a film that
is lifted above what might have been a lost plot in less talented hands. Synchronic
is anything but lost in time. It’s timely and timeless.
When a couple of overnight paramedics (Mackie and Dornan)
start seeing a rash of strange deaths and violent occurrences on their route in
New Orleans, they begin to realize that there is a pattern and a drug called Synchronic
is at the crux of it. When Dennis’ (Dornan) daughter goes missing, Steve
(Mackie) starts to piece together the sequence of events to find her. And it
may require him to use this new drug to break the boundaries of time and space
to do so.
After the mind-bending elements of their previous film, The
Endless, perhaps it’s not shocking that Benson and Moorhead would decide to
maintain that momentum with another film that focuses on many of the same
concepts and themes. Instead of brotherhood, it’s long time ‘brotherly’
friendship. Instead of the strange timelessness of a cult, it’s the time
leaping aspects of a new drug called Synchronic. These themes about
family found and lost, the daunting tension of one’s own timeline counting
down, and an overarching sense of purpose and drive for characters make Synchronic
a densely layered piece of cinema and one that often lingers long after the
credits have rolled – particularly with the final moments that it lands on.
Synchronic is not only a thoughtful piece of cinema, but it’s entertainingly well-executed beyond the script. The film is anchored by a nuanced, often humorous but heartfelt performance from Mackie as a paramedic looking for redemption and a purpose. Dornan balances it remarkably well as the second lead, but Mackie impressively handles most of the weight of the material. The manner that the film blends in its science-fiction elements on its obvious budget is smartly accomplished, particularly with its starkly intense visuals. Benson and Moorhead slather the film in fantastical visuals and editing. Just look for a single take moment in the opening scene that showcases their intentions and skills. None of the genre elements ever feel out of place within the more dramatic foundations and this is a testament to the impressiveness of the film.
With its gorgeous cinematography, rock-solid performances, and
impeccable direction, Synchronic is only further proof that smart and
effective science fiction is still alive and well. It works on the surface to
entertain and entice to be timely, but its nuance of character, theme, and
style is what will make it timeless. Not too shabby for the time travel genre
which is often as convoluted as it is confusing.