Studio: Magnet Releasing
Director: Jacob Gentry
Writer: Jacob Gentry, Alex Orr
Producer: Alexander A. Motlagh, Christopher Alender
Stars: Chad McKnight, Brianne Davis, AJ Bowen, Claire Bronson, Wade Tilton, Scott Poythress, Michael Ironside
Suspecting his lover is part of a plot to steal his invention, a physicist travels through time to change their relationship as well as the conspiracy.
Jim Beale is on the brink of a breakthrough. In an unspecified near-future, Jim and two fellow physicists have created a wormhole generator capable of traversing the space-time continuum. Unfortunately, powering the machine requires a rare radioactive isotope. Mirroring Doc Brown and the Libyans, Jim has no choice but to deal with the devil, in this case a greedy venture capitalist, and ends up with a partner in the project he might be better off without.
Successfully punching a hole in time doesn’t bring an inter-dimensional alien invasion or Michael Biehn. It brings a flower. That flower connects Jim to Abby, a mystery woman whose natural allure charms Jim to a point where inventing time travel boards a backseat to the enticing romance up front.
Before long, Jim discovers the flower’s arrival has more meaning than he imagined. There might be more to Abby than initially suspected, too. Abby could be in league with the investor trying to usurp control of the project, potentially leaving Jim without his wormhole or his woman. But Jim has a unique scheme in mind to keep both. And it involves altering his recent past.
Grounding its time traversing tale in more thoughtful thriller territory, i.e. sentient robots or action-obsessed plots to kill Hitler in his crib are not in this equation, it’s understandable why “Synchronicity” evokes comparisons to the stripped-down suspense of “Primer.” Character driven, smart plotting isn’t all they have in common. What both movies share more than anything is an economy making the most from an indie effort’s limitations of leanness.
“Synchronicity” wears the heart of Philip K. Dick on its sleeve. The “Blade Runner” audio/video aesthetic liberally bleeds everywhere across setting and score. Ben Lovett’s synthesized sounds send the musical tone straight back to the 80s/90s, right where the film wants it to be. Eric Maddison’s cinematography and Jeffrey Pratt Gordon’s production design follow in stride. Maddison creatively angles the camera at concrete slabs so as to disguise a definitive time and place while capturing a cold sleekness in the buildings fitting for both present and future. Circling searchlights perpetually sweeping through venetian blinds complete the Syd Mead style, even though accusations of unashamed frequency would not be unfounded.
However, those aren’t the only areas where that influence is felt. There is also the deeply smoky noir of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” forming a frame for the film’s fiction.
Time travel thrillers foster frustration when fans can’t follow along or feel mentally marginalized by too much intelligence or too many inconsistencies. “Synchronicity” requires a sober attention span to pay attention to its threads, though it still manages to coast below the scalp line without flying overhead, a few demons in the details notwithstanding.
“Synchronicity” has a core of sci-fi romance. While the nitty gritty behind its science and the setups in its story generally don’t overcomplicate themselves, the love affair powering the plot emerges as a more convoluted pill to swallow. That’s more than a minor hiccup given how essential Jim and Abby’s relationship is to engaging in the movie, and more than a little surprising given how many other elements are in contention for suspension of disbelief.
Brianne Davis slips in subtly as Jim’s object of affection, Abby. Davis summons a certain sultriness that accurately captures the vixen vibe of an inexplicably irresistible femme fatale. It’s not an empty appeal. There’s more capable Bond girl than generic bombshell here, with Jim being understandably drawn to a layered personality who takes his head out of science and submerges it in seduction.
Trouble brews in the arc of how Jim and Abby’s relationship deepens. Their romantic entanglement doesn’t fully form in a way that is entirely easy to be onboard with how quickly they come together and how interlocked they are from that moment. That has to do with how the script compresses their time together to ensure Abby’s involvement remains integral to Jim’s other past-altering purpose, and intended love between them gets lost in these transitions.
Once one starts considering rationale behind things like why Abby’s direct hand in the wormhole experiment is supposedly crucial, other details essential to forward momentum are called into question. E.g. Jim doesn’t suspect what KMC stands for? Abby can obtain proprietary radioactive material worth $5 million dollars simply by sleeping with someone? And two accomplished physicists can’t come up with a concrete way to help a third determinedly distinguish between right and left? (How about, put a magazine cover on the wall and give an instruction, “turn the handle towards Peyton Manning!”)
“Synchronicity” doesn’t exactly crumble from its cracks. These details aren’t too critical to be unforgivable, and perceived paradoxes don’t come close to “Terminator 2” territory of Miles Dyson crafting a machine from technology he hasn’t invented yet. As finely functional as the full script is, it merely earns a mention that “Synchronicity” doesn’t sail a completely buttoned up ship as far as plot progression goes.
Michael Ironside fans, read: everyone, may be disappointed to learn that his villainous billionaire, of course named Klaus Meisner, disappears mid-movie as a character not as juiced with import as one might assume. Still, what presence Ironside does have is enough to make anyone wish for more. Even bored, which he doesn’t appear to be here, Ironside’s monotone menace and signature burnt gravel voice befits the “I couldn’t care less” bad guy attitude purposefully brought to every performance.
“Synchronicity” ranks as inherently less energetic and more self-contained than “Timecrimes” (review here), “Predestination” (review here), or “I’ll Follow You Down” (review here) as a time travel thriller. The mystery element is there, but a scarcity of urgency in what the protagonist needs to accomplish lowers stakes in the suspense category. This limits broader appeal to those seeking a faster pace and more explosive intent, though anyone entertained by streamlined style with smaller scope has cause to take this trip. If nothing else, “Synchronicity” is essential viewing for indie filmmakers in need of inspiration or ideas on how to execute high concept with a low budget.
Review Score: 70