Pop these pills and then get Back to the Future.
Recently, I praised Christopher Nolan’s time-traveling epic “Tenet” for showing me a dazzling visual world of what happens when you travel through time. People and objects either move forward or backwards, depending on who is the time traveler, and who is seeing the time traveler. And also, Netflix has released a B-movie called “Project Power,” which was about a pill that save you super powers for 5 minutes. Despite its underdeveloped villain study, I endorsed the film for its lead heroes and its entertaining splice of “Chronicle,” “Limitless,” and “Requiem for a Dream.”
Now, we have the theatrical release of “Synchronic,” which introduces us to a time-traveling pill, and while it lags in certain areas of the film, it still took me by surprise with how the pill works and how the leads Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan improvise on the realties around them. Some of them are pure, and others are surprising. It’s not the multi-million dollar time-traveling movie you’re expecting like “Back to the Future,” “Tenet,” or “Avengers: Endgame.” It’s a small-time thriller that takes its baby steps and wakes you up.
We meet two New Orleans paramedics-the family man Dennis (Jamie Dornan) and the terminally ill Steve (Anthony Mackie)-both of whom come a cross a series of horrific deaths, linked to the drug. Before we get into the time-traveling business, they have no idea what exactly happened to the victims. One of them gets incinerated at a theme park, and another gets stabbed by an ancient knife.
And to make matters worse, Dennis’ teenage daughter Brianna (Ally Ionannides) disappears at a party after ingesting this drug. So, Steve has to buy all the drugs to save the other drug addicts, and when the creator of the drug-Dr. Kermani (Ramiz Monsef)-breaks into his apartment to try to steal the drugs, he’s forced to tell him about its time-traveling capabilities.
Steve tries the pill, and he learns that the doctor was right about it, which allows you go back in time for 7 minutes. He makes an instruction video about how the process works. The time period you go all depends on where you use the drug. Examples: if you were on the couch, you end up dealing with a conquistador, and if you were on the floor, you’d end up in the ice age.
While Dennis’ wife (Kate Aselton) grows distant from him, given their daughter’s disappearance, Steve figures he could use these pills to find Brianna.
The parts that weren’t that interesting regard Dennis’ relationship with Briana and his wife. They never really grabbed my attention or had the kind of character developments they needed. But what ignites “Synchronic” is how filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (A.K.A Moorhead & Benson) allow the main protagonist Steve to come to terms with his condition and adapt to the time-traveling pill. Indie filmmakers take routine premises and spike them with their own styles, and seeing the results are quite entertaining.
Mackie delivers the best performance in the movie when he adapts to his character’s situations, adds some sly wit to his time-traveling instructional videos, and rises to the occasion. And even if we don’t get much out his family life, Dornan provides some sincere emotions, especially later in the movie when he tears about the current sad state of his marriage.
The movie is never overflown with special effects or commercialism, and still has you getting involved with the time-traveling druggies. You know what? If “Scream” can provide the rules to surviving a horror movie, then “Synchronic” should also give you its rules of surviving time travel. You have to be in a specific area by the time your 7 minutes are up, or you’re stuck in the past. Now that’s risky. Let’s do it.
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