There’s a magic drug that sends you through time, and they really put too much into the “how.”
Steve Denube (Anthony Mackie) is a paramedic who, along with his partner Dennis (Jamie Dornan), starts to get called into very strange crime and injury scenes. In the first, there’s a domestic violence injury that also has an archaic sword lodged into the wall. In the second, a completely burned body is found in a place that did not have a fire. In the third, there’s a bite from a venomous snake that hasn’t existed in the area for centuries. At the same time, Steve is diagnosed with cancer of the pineal gland, which his doctor notices is similar to that of an adolescent’s. At another call, they discover that one of the people present was Dennis’s daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides), who has now disappeared. Steve realizes all of these cases are related to a drug called “synchronic.” It turns out that if you take Synchronic, it allows you to move through time… and get lost in it. Now Steve is going to use the last of the supply in order to find Brianna and bring her back.
About 20 minutes of this film is taken up by Anthony Mackie attempting to mess around with the drug and explain how it works. The problem is that almost everything about the way the time-travel functions is kind of dumb, but, mostly, it’s not important enough to merit the number of scenes spent explaining it. The pill sends adults back in time as ghosts, but anyone without a calcified pineal gland goes back whole along with anything they’re touching. The amount of time you go back is directly tied to the physical location you’re in when you take the pill. This is explained by saying that time is curved and when you take the pill you move through time straight, but, again, they spend way too much screentime on this. This also results in a number of scenes of Steve testing places to move through time and what he can move with him, but his behavior during these sequences is also kind of ridiculous (and costs him a dog rather than, say, a gerbil which he could have used for like $5). It’s even worse because this method of time travel is actually kind of a cool gimmick, but the more you think about it, the more it starts to fall apart, so devoting more time to explaining it undercuts the effect.
It also doesn’t help that the movie really has to keep fabricating reasons why the story has to be Steve trying to rescue Brianna. For example, there’s only a handful of Synchronic pills left in the world and Steve has all of them. This is explicitly told to him by the chemist who created them who, rather than collecting his Nobel prize for discovering TIME TRAVEL, kills himself so that no one can make more. Also, they make it so that Steve is basically the only adult without a calcified pineal gland (in reality, even if you’re in your 80s, you have about a 1 in 3 chance of having no calcification). Again, I wouldn’t have even thought about this except that the movie kept bringing it up.
Now, on the other hand, having the movie almost entirely focused on Anthony Mackie is a great decision. His character is going through so much in the film that it’s impressive how well Mackie portrays a man whose response to finding out he has cancer is mostly to dedicate himself to one project as a way of both ignoring his mortality and of trying to make up his mistakes to his partner. Steve, who is a clear ladies man that has been avoiding responsibility, has been leaning on Dennis throughout his career. Mackie manages to give a lot of emotional depth to the character by conveying all of these elements throughout the film, while also still bringing enough levity to keep it from getting bogged down. The visuals, also, were pretty great.
Overall, while it could have benefitted from a little more “show, don’t tell,” it was a decent movie.
For some reason I see people online questioning whether Steve gets home. The movie already answered that, no, he doesn’t. Steve realizes that the location where Brianna disappeared was a stone that takes them back to the revolutionary war. The reason he realizes this is because he finds a message on the rock that Steve and Dennis believe is from Brianna. However, when Steve gets back there, Brianna doesn’t know about the message and then she goes home. This means, in order to complete the time-loop, Steve has to leave the message there and stay back in the 1700s. It’s likely that his cancer kills him soon after, but at least he did what he wanted to do.
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