The time travel film Synchronicity is one of the more sumptuous looking low-budget science fiction movies that you are bound to see this year, but its blending of sci-fi and romance doesn’t succeed as well as its visuals. Still, writer/director Jacob Gentry’s first full-length feature since The Signal has enough verve to warrant placing it on your “should see” list for 2016.
Physicist Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) is working on a project to open “a traversable wormhole in the space-time continuum” with the help of his assistants Chuck (AJ Bowen) and Matty (Scott Poythress). To do this, they need an exceptionally expensive, “extremely volatile radioactive substance” called MRD which they can only get through its copyright holder, venture capitalist Klaus Meisner (Michael Ironside), who wants increasingly more of controlling shares should the experiments succeed.
Enter Meisner’s mistress Abby (Brianne Davis), who Beale quickly falls for and who turns out to be a heck of a pitch person on Beale’s behalf at a hastily planned dinner, at which Meisner’s wife is also a guest. With initial experiments seemingly successful, Meisner attends a trial where Beale unexpectedly makes himself the first human subject. It’s not giving too much away, I hope, to let readers know that he is triumphant in some degrees in his initial time travel effort, but what he does with this newfound scientific breakthrough is likely less than what many viewers may hope for.
The world of Synchronicity is visually amazing, especially considering that is a lower budget effort. The feel is that of a not-too-distant future in a brightly lit, architecturally marvelous city that nevertheless has a dark feeling about it. Most of the buildings shown are upscale, from Meisner’s corporate offices to swank hotels. Some imagery that occurs at certain times when Beale has flashes is also sensational. The production design by Jeffrey Pratt Gordon, art direction by Jenn Moye and Stephen Rubac, set decoration by David Weeks, and the rest of the work from the art department and visual effects crew are highly commendable accomplishments. Another admirable element of the film’s world is Ben Lovett’s incredible synthesizer score, which recalls the heyday of synth-fueled sci-films of the seventies and eighties while sounding wonderfully fresh.
Unfortunately Synchronicity’s story doesn’t come off as admirably as its visual and aural elements. Jacob Gentry’s script tries to balance science fiction and romance but wholly succeeds at neither. Chuck echoed my sentiments while I watched the film when he addressed Beale thusly: “The power to cross the universe in an instant . . . the impossible dream becomes possible. All of the unbelievable things that you could accomplish, the eternal questions you could answer . . . and you just wanna get laid.” The film could work well as a date movie, I suppose; there are enough repeated incidents to keep the science-fiction fan happily immersed in time travel puzzles while the romance could prove a draw for the person who doesn’t delve too often into sci-fi territory. Still, the two halves don’t quite make a cohesive whole here.
Although the film’s performances are impressive, they are mostly cases of good actors giving their all with stock characters. Chad McKnight’s Beale is another in the long list of cinematic scientists who seem to have no prior experience with the opposite sex despite being better-than-average looking and are therefore easy prey to the first comely soul with whom they cross paths. Brianne Davis’s Abby is a misunderstood femme fatale with a heart of gold kept by a controlling, jealous man. Michael Ironside’s Meisner is perhaps the most cliched character of the bunch, a heartless CEO who is only interested in technology for the money and the power it affords. Scott Poythress’s Matty is the bumbling genius who can solve complex math equations but can’t tell his left from his right — something that telegraphs a major event from the opening minutes of the film. AJ Bowen’s Chuck is perhaps the only character who rises slightly above being one-dimensional. As I mentioned, though, the cast rises above the characters. The chemistry between McKnight and Davis is substantial, and Davis portrays Abby with subtle shadings that leave Beale and viewers wondering exactly what she is up to. McKnight, Bowen, and Poythress also play off each other well as friendly colleagues, which should come as no surprise because they worked together and with Jacob Gentry in The Signal.
Although Jacob Gentry’s screenplay has a few shortcomings, mostly in character development, he shows a masterly directorial and editing hand, and he has created a most impressive futuristic landscape. Eric Maddison’s superb cinematography further brings this world to life.
Synchronicity reaches high and falls a bit short, but there is plenty that works to keep things interesting and entertaining throughout its running time.
Synchronicity: (3.5 / 5)