Directors Justin Benson, Aaron Moorehead
Screenplay Justin Benson
Starring Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides, Katie Aselton, Bill Oberst Jr.
“So it’s going to be a slow death.”
Steve Denube (Mackie) is a man on the verge. He has just been given a death sentence by his doctor: inoperable brain cancer. He works as a paramedic with his partner Dennis. Dennis is married with two children and has some midlife problems. More and more, their job becomes synonymous with picking up people who are tripped out on Synchronic, a synthetic drug. One of the potential victims ends up being Dennis’ oldest daughter. Steve decides to take one last swing at life buying all of the Synchronic that he can and overdosing. The trip is explained by its creator as being the needle on a certain point on the record of time. This gives Steve hope that his life can amount to something.
The premise of time a time travel drug is an intriguing one. At every point we are with Steve, the film has legs. Mackie’s natural curiosity pushes his character out of the doldrums into the absolute most unique bucket list opportunity. There is inherent danger in travelling through time in the New Orleans area. He crosses paths with some curious things, and others who intend to do him harm. The research he does, never surrendering who he is while pushing forward, feels like life renewed.
The same cannot be said for the scenes with Dennis. What starts off as family tragedy is pulled into a state of mired delirium. It is no small agony to listen to Dornan’s middle aged father opine about his life and his doubts. Why isn’t more time dedicated to the search? Why is Steve friends with Dennis?
The combination results in a good, but not great, experience. What Benson and Moorehead have in scientific creativity, they lack in creating chemistry between characters. It feels like a burden to have to endure the personal moments between any two characters just to get exposition to use later.
The last act brings us to a spot one might expect in a tale taking place near a famous battleground. Despite that, it is fulfilling to experience Mackie’s sacrifice, even if an earlier discovery calls that decision into question. Viewers won’t find premises as creative as this often in movies. Even if not explored to the extent desired, it’s still entertaining and somewhat intriguing. One just wishes that the peripheral characters held any interest at all.
(***1/2 out of *****)