Synchronic Review: “The songs are all on the record, the drug is the needle”
Having been raised on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future and a healthy dose of Star Trek, I will readily admit that I have a soft spot for time travel. There was always something cool about the mechanism used to facilitate the story. Synchronic utilizes one of the more unique methods I’ve seen, which is chemistry. Though the conceit is unique and Synchronic unfolds in a satisfying way, one glaring issue threatens to upend the project.
The story of Synchronic follows two paramedics, Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) as they begin to encounter a series of mysterious injuries and deaths occurring in New Orleans (anyone else have Deja Vu). The only common link is a designer drug wrapper found at each of the scenes.
Steve and Jamie have been friends since college. Mackie playing the love averse man-child and Dornan struggling in his marriage. When Dornan’s daughter, Brianna, played by Ally Ioannided (I hate that Into the Badlands was canceled), goes missing and the drug is found at the scene, Mackie will risk everything to find her and bring her home.
There’s a lot to like about Synchronic. The initial setting and cinematography does a lot to draw you in. Within the first few minutes, the film feels visually arresting. Kind of low-fi and dirty, which reminded me of films from the mid 90’s, like The Crow. This unfortunately kind of vanishes at some point during the film. The movie uses a common shorthand for setting up the friendship between the two leads. They work together, rag on each other, drink together and complain about their lives. This is male friendship, people (no, seriously, it doesn’t take much to make us happy).
I also like the discussions around and the portrayal of time travel. The rules are relatively straight forward, feeling like an extended version of the mall parking lot scene from BTTF. The special effects around the time travel itself are fun to look at. The traveler doesn’t just appear into a new time period, there’s a cross-fade as the present bleeds away or the past pops into view.
The film also addresses the elephant in the room. It’s hard (if not impossible or irresponsible) to do a time travel movie where a black man goes to the past and not touch on the de jure or de facto racism that is guaranteed to ensue. I would argue that the film went just one step too far portraying this, but your mileage may vary.
While the movie is well acted and the pacing does a good job of moving you forward through the film, it’s almost all for naught, as Dornan’s wife Tara (Kathryn Aselton) kind of sucks. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal. Side characters, by their very nature, often get the short shrift in film and television. However, when her relationship with Dornan is a large focal point of Mackie’s motivation to risk his life to save Brianna, it becomes more of a glaring issue.
“It’s enjoyable, just don’t think too hard about it,” should be its own genre of film. While Sci-Fi films often fall in this bucket, it’s not for the same reasons that Synchronic finds itself here.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2019 and is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on 23 October 2020. Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with the directors in the link above.
But what do you think?! Are you excited to see Synchronic? Let us know in the comments below or join us on the Discord server at the link below.