There are few topics more complex for a film to tackle than time travel. Whether it’s the inherent paradoxes in the storyline (what if I go back and kill my grandfather?) or the need to have the viewer believe that the story doesn’t eats its own metaphorical tail in a dull, endless loop, the number of time travel movies that have delivered an engaging and interesting experience can be counted on one hand. Then there are films about time travel that simply use that as a jumping off point for a different type of story, like the classic ‘Groundhog Day,’ or the engaging horror film ‘Time Lapse,’ the latter of which revolves around a group of millennials who find a camera that takes photos 24 hours in the future.
Director Jacob Gentry’s film ‘Synchronicity’ is certainly eager to enter the ranks of smart, convoluted time travel films and it has its moments of brilliance and ingenuity, when later scenes mesh perfectly with the different point of view of the lead character, inventor Jim Beale (Chad McKnight), but they’re too few and too far apart, leaving us with a muddled mess of an indie sci-fi thriller that, well, runs out of time entirely.
The basic storyline is that Beale has invented a way to produce a worm hole, but only has enough of a rare radioactive element to power one end of the hole. To get more, he must convince investor Klaus Meisner (Michael Ironside) to spring for a substantial additional investment in the project, an investment that would include the element that, surprise, only Meisner’s big, bad corporation produces. The wrinkle is that Beale falls for Meisner’s mistress Abby (Brianne Davis) and they soon scheme to be together.
Abby seems to have her own agenda and Beale’s unsure if he’s going to be able to convince Meisner to offer up the additional funding and let him create the other end of the worm hole. Close examination of the video footage from when they opened up the first side of the worm hole seems to suggest that someone came through the portal. But how, when the other end isn’t created yet. Or is it… in the future?
The film offers up an increasingly confused narrative where there might be more than one instance of a lead character — and what happens if they meet? — and if the future character can go back in time and prevent a bad outcome of an experiment…. but if love gets in the way of science, what to choose?
Meanwhile, the low-budget production tries desperately to pull off a futuristic noir setting not just inspired by ‘Blade Runner’ but more ripped off wholesale, to the point where I kept waiting for the neon billboards, “skin jobs” and invitations to “come to the outer colonies” as so characterized the brilliant 1982 Ridley Scott film. The laboratory also seemed a cross between the chaotic jumble of ’12 Monkeys’ (a far more interesting time travel film) and Primer (a much better indie time travel movie).
A sloppy setting can be excused in an indie movie, but what really torpedoes ‘Synchronicity’ is the poor performance of lead actor Chad McKnight and the complete lack of chemistry between him and his female lead Brianne Davis. They both might mature into splendid actors in a few years, but in this movie he lacks any sort of ability to command our attention and other than Brianne’s obvious physical charms there’s no reason that their characters would be interested in each other within the context of the story.
And yet. And yet buried in ‘Synchronicity’ is a really excellent time travel movie. Perhaps a better script, better actors and a director with more experience under their belt could have delivered, and that’s the greatest frustration with the film because more than once there were those “oohhh” and “ahhh” moments when things came together and the film proved engrossing. Unfortunately, they proved too infrequent and too short to prop up this clunker of a sci-fi film.