Synchronic is a brilliant film that takes what could be a standard drama or thriller and evolves it to become a high concept science fiction that easily surpasses films of its ilk with far greater budgets. A film that demands eyes on it as soon as possible. Do not miss this one.
Following two paramedics Dennis (Jamie Dornan) and Steve (Anthony Mackie) as they begin to regularly encounter people succumbing to the effects of a strange drug. With Steve keeping a secret from Dennis, their relationship strains. When the drug takes a person to close to home for both of them a decision needs to be made.
A lot can be said for originality on science fiction and filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, certainly know how to put their splash of originality to their films. Anyone who watched their 2017 hit The Endless can attest to that. With Synchronic, we have a film that could just be a drama with a hint of science fiction to it. However, this duo has greater and grander plans for its audience. We venture into a wonderful time travelling spectacle that has so much scope for a film made for seemingly so little.
What assists with the strength of Synchronic is the development of its characters. These two worn-out paramedics could just be stereotypical friends, but the film is smarter than that to make that the case. We see Dennis have a strong arc throughout, while he starts forlorn and neglecting his family. As if he has forgotten the reasons as to why he fell for his wife. He has just hit 40 and married young, he doesn’t know his place or accepted it. Whereas Steve lives free as a bachelor, who focuses on his job to distract him from a disease that he has been diagnosed with; he begins to think of what he has missed in terms of love.
Both use their jobs as a crutch. So when these deaths and incidents of people throughout the city begin to become all too frequent. They delve into their work; trying to figure out what is going on and to the source of the unusual drug. This is a film that although it has characters go on cosmic 7 minute time jumps into different periods in Louisiana history. It is firmly centered in humanity. Dennis and Steve are flawed people, everyone they encounter is flawed in some way. The only difference is what people do about it. Dennis realises the love he has for his family when he is on the cusp of losing it and Steve is staring down the barrel with his life. Does he fight it and try to live the life he knows he should have or does he let it go?
We also have a strong theme of appreciation. As Steve takes his brave moves in the third act, an appreciation for life, love and the present hit him, it is a strong emotion that is evoked here. Throughout we see the worst of mankind thanks to this psychedelic, not just now, but in the past as well. The sense of dread never leaves the film, expecting one of our two leads to venture down a path they shouldn’t. However clever writing that allows the audience to work out things for themselves rather than have it pointed out to use, gives the chance for it to flow and the dread to grow.
For these paramedics they see people stabbed with swords in a drug den, they have someone burned alive, a person is bitten by a snake not known for the area whilst in a hotel room. Everyone they encounter seems nonplussed to the demise of their friends or fellow humans. Police shrug it off, while Dennis and Steve are left further haunted and concerned. In a tender scene, Dennis tells his wife a secret about a job he and Steve had to do during Hurricane Katrina. Bringing us full circle to why Dennis has been having dark visions of coffins in the rain. Benson and Moorhead have wisely given us a piece that while centered in humanity, is also centered in reality. As strange as it seems when we talk about a film that has a drug that causes users to time jump.
If Synchronic was based in the future or an alternative world then it would not hit and work as well. By having the film almost play out as a drama of these paramedics trying to help and stop the use of this seemingly fatal drug. Synchronic allows for the twist of what this drug does to have legs and to run with it. There is no need to waste time with long world-building. We know this world, it is ours. It is a sensible choice from the duo and one that helps elevate it from the start.
Visually, this is a wonderful piece of cinema should be watched on the largest screen available to you. Subtlety is key to the success of this film and the cinematography and editing are one of its star performers. When we meet Dennis and Steve they are taken to a drug den and the camerawork that just pans across, leaving the characters behind as we go in front of them. As if we are to warn them of what to expect.
Equally the cut jumps of even when we are in the present allow for the audience to try and figure out things for themselves. This is not a linear film and that is great. Simple edits such as when Steve is driving his car, show his mania at the time, how lost he is. Driving all day etc. It keeps the audience alert when otherwise we could get a little lost.
Mackie and Dornan have great chemistry here and in truth, this is both of their strongest performances from what I can remember from them. They are these characters and when they have struggles you are emotionally connected to their woes. We want the best for them and when their world continues to be turned upside down we deflate for them. Exceptional performances, however, as strong as Dornan is here. This is without a doubt Mackie’s film.
The issue with Synchronic? For a film that is so clever and original. You can telegraph the ending or get a firm grasp of the fates of characters around a third of the way through it. Now the film is still excellent despite this. But, the fact that the ending is this ending is a tad deflating. These characters and this story deserves something a tad more original. However, it still works, happily sticking the landing. In other hands, this ending and the story itself would have gone wayward long before we get to that final act. The film just deserved that last push to make it an absolute must-see.
Synchronic truly surprised for how strong it is, though considering the filmmakers this should not have been too much of a shock. This is a well-acted, brilliantly presented film that should be on the top of your watch lists this year.
Signature Entertainment will release Synchronic on home premiere January 29.
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