Hit up your dealer for the inventive new Benson/Moorhead science fiction fix
Synchronic arrives on Blu-ray January 26 from Well Go USA.
In a relatively short time, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have carved out a strong reputation as creators of heady, visually inventive horror and science fiction films with Resolution, Spring, and The Endless.
Their latest, Synchronic, distributed by Well Go USA, follows suit with a high concept tale starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan as paramedics who encounter a series of bizarre deaths and accidents which defy explanation — each tied to the use of a designer drug called Synchronic.
Steve (Mackie) and Dennis (Dornan) are longtime best friends — and very flawed individuals — each dealing with their own personal troubles. Family man Dennis has marital problems and struggles to relate to his teenage daughter, while lonely Dennis fights his emptiness with sex, drugs, and booze, and now secretly deals with the news that he has a brain tumor. Both men envy the other’s “better” life.
After several grisly encounters with victims who died in bizarre freak accidents while using Synchronic, tragedy strikes — Dennis’s own daughter disappears after experimenting with the drug. Steve jumps into the Synchronic rabbit hole to understand just what is going on, and we learn that it is, to crudely summarize, a time travel pill — and Brianna may be lost anywhen between here and the Ice Age.
I love a good, solid, scientific explanation of time travel (Michael Crichton’s Sphere being my favorite), and Synchronic has one of the most unique takes of all: time is not linear, but our processing of it is. The drug briefly incapacitates the processing of linear time, essentially allowing the user to time travel in place for a few minutes. (One character uses a record as an analogy — all the tracks exist simultaneously along a groove, but the needle only processes the current moment).
Mackie is really wonderful here as a broken, depressed man who suddenly finds himself burdened with purpose, both waiting to die and given a reason to live. The story goes to some very thoughtful, harrowing, and even beautiful places as he makes several drug-induced excursions into the past, each fraught with danger and revealing new technical and historical considerations.
While some of the time travel logistics don’t quite hold up to scrutiny for me, the film is nonetheless super intriguing and cerebral, and its conclusion both moving and thought-provoking. It’s also worth noting that the visual effects and time travel designs are incredible — so natural and organic, in contrast to the “showy” effects usually associated with the science fiction genre.
It’s not exactly what you’d call a “fun” movie, but is well worth checking out and enjoyable as engagement, especially if you’ve enjoyed Benson and Moorhead’s other films.
Synchronic comes to Blu-ray from Well Go USA (who also published Benson and Moorhead’s prior film, The Endless). My copy came with a slipcover.
Special Features and Extras
- Commentary with Directors and Producer
- Making of (15:05)
- Previsualization (8:17)
- VFX Breakdown: Time Travel Look Development (2:59)
I really enjoyed the handling of the time travel, and the aesthetic which is discussed here (a slow, quiet, naturalistic approach) is precisely why.
- Deleted Scene (1:06)
- Alternate Ending with Intro (1:28)
A humorous joke ending. (Side note, I’ve heard that early festival screenings of the film had an actual alternate ending — this isn’t it).
- Synchronic Trailers (1:31, 2:24)
- Promotional Trailers — for Max Cloud (2:09), Cut Throat City (2:23), and Possessor Uncut (2:15)
Get it at Amazon:
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.