Director: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: Paramedics and best friends, Dennis and Steve, are dispatched to multiple bizarre scenes of injury and violence on their night shift in new Orleans. This escalation of strange events appears to be tied to a new designer drug called Synchronic, which has recently appeared on the market. While both men struggle with their own sense of fulfillment and lack of happiness in their lives, they find themselves drawn into the mystery of the synthetic substance when a personal tragedy hits home for both.
Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead have garnered quite the cult following among horror and sci-fi fans for their high concept indie films. The duo seems to have boundless creativity and a stellar intuition to realize their big ideas on a micro-budget and have struck a chord with critics and viewers alike considering the buzz they’ve built off their names, especially on the festival circuit. It was only a matter of time before a film studio took notice and fronted some real money for these directors to make their first mainstream film with two well-known actors in the lead roles.
The central mystery to Synchronic is revealed pretty early, so I don’t mind going into mild spoilers in order to examine the film’s premise. To put it directly, the drug makes the user travel back in time where they and the environment they cross to are fully tangible, which illustrates the source of the strange injuries and sometimes, deaths. Time travel is a particularly tricky concept to explore, especially when it comes to paradoxes or actions of the past directly effecting the present. Synchronic strips away a lot of confusion associated with time travel and establish a clear set of rules. Unfortunately, the rules are almost too simplistic and not fleshed out enough, and the concept isn’t really given much weight in terms of the overall narrative. The stakes are more personal to the central characters and their journey, which feels at odds with the sheer amount of the possibilities a time travelling drug offers.
Despite their first mainstream film, both Moorhead and Benson have retained creative control over the production, filling the roles of writers, producers, editors and cinematography. While Benson is credited for the screenplay, Moorhead takes the reins as cinematographer utilizing the natural and minimalist approach to the camerawork that their films are known for. Both work in synchronization (I regret nothing) as Moorhead shoots the film in a steady, purposeful manner to allow drawn-out, purposeful discussions to flow naturally highlighting Benson’s writing. Synchronic boasts some slick visuals and trippy moments as we travel through the hysteria of time and the unpredictable dangers it holds for casual drug users.
The principal asset of Moorhead and Benson’s films, other than their ingenuity, is the depth of their characters. The conceptual aspects of their films are anchored to reality by convincing performances, impersonal relationships, and punchy dialogue. Synchronic thrives when the film just settles on casual conversations between Dennis and Steve, who are both envious of each other’s lifestyle but utterly unhappy in their own. Steve is a free willed womanizer who drifts from day to day aimlessly while Dennis has his second child on the way, a beautiful wife but feels unfulfilled and drifting away from his wife and 18-year-old daughter. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan sell their friendship convincingly with an understated chemistry full of witty jabs and observations only long-time friends could identify.
Years ago, comedian Louis CK had a bit on one of his specials about how time machines were an exclusively white privilege. History has favoured white people who could jump off at any time with no real consequence. On the flip side, black people do not have this benefit and Synchronic takes this comedic snippet and shows the horrifying truth of it. The strange reality of Benson and Moorheads biggest film to date is that it feels the smallest with an unrealized concept and sporadic pacing. Synchronic will be a great introduction of a wider audience to the duo’s style and vision, and with the current abundance of positive reviews should hopefully spearhead future projects with bigger budgets (they’re currently attached to Marvel’s Moon Knight series). For longtime fans, myself included, the film is disappointingly tepid compared to their previous films but fortunately the visuals are unique, the two leads solid. A solid science fiction
Cans of Coors Light