REVIEW: ‘Synchronic’ Is a Trippy Time Travel Thriller

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Synchronic - But Why Tho?Synchronic is written by Justin Benson and directed by Benson and Aaron Moorhead, and produced by XYZ Films and Patriot Pictures. Paramedics Steve Denube (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis Dannelly (Jamie Dornan) are called to a series of grisly crime scenes that feature bizarre deaths such as a man stabbed to death with an ancient cutlass or a body that’s been completely immolated. Steve soon discovers that the cause of the deaths is a new designer drug called Synchronic which sends its users back in time. When Dennis’s daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) disappears after taking Synchronic, Steve— who is struggling with the fact that he has brain cancer—starts experimenting with the drug in order to find a way to bring her back.

This film marks another venture into the realm of sci-fi for Mackie, who previously headlined the Netflix original film Outside The Wire and season 2 of Altered Carbon. His trademark charisma is on display, particularly in interactions with Dornan. You can tell the duo have had a long-standing friendship due to their banter and their acting as a cohesive unit in the field. Mackie also gets to deliver some fairly hilarious lines, including a rant about how Back to the Future is completely unrealistic. Between this and Avengers: Endgame, it feels like that’s the go-to move for time travel films which is understandable given that Back to the Future is often considered the hallmark of the genre.

However, Mackie also brings a hefty dose of soul to Steve’s character, especially in how he deals with his own mortality and his time travel journey. The theme of time is present throughout the film, and it doesn’t just apply to the time travel elements but to how Steve deals with his tumor diagnosis. At first choosing to dull his feelings with alcohol and one-night stands, he finds a sense of purpose in his experiments with Synchronic. As slowly revealed over the course of the film, Steve suffered a horrible loss when he was young, which explains why he became a paramedic and why he’s taking his own life into his hands by experimenting with the drug. He’s trying to spare his friend that same aching feeling of loss, and Mackie says a lot with a little. You can read a host of emotions in his eyes: despair, determination, and even acceptance toward the film’s ending.

Dornan’s character, on the other hand, isn’t afforded the same amount of depth. While Dennis and Steve’s friendship plays a large role in the film, we don’t fully see how Brianna’s disappearance takes a toll on Dennis’s marriage. It’s shown that Dennis isn’t in the best state of mind toward the end, but since his daughter is literally lost in time and space it would have been nice to see more of that emotional toll on her parents. Dornan is a great actor, having delivered a stellar performance in The Fall. It would have been nice to see more of him in the film.

Benson and Moorhead deliver an amazing film, drawing the user into the world of the film and slowly building out the time travel elements. Benson’s script doesn’t lose the audience with its time travel rules; they’re simple and consistent which is a relief as this genre can often become confusing extremely fast. As the cinematographer, Moorhead also creates striking images that apply to both past and present. A scene where Steve is taken to the middle of a swamp is sunny with a hazy sky, giving off a beautiful yet sinister image. And a running element throughout the film has Steve recording himself on camera as he takes Synchronic, which adds a more personal touch to his character journey and lets Mackie express himself physically.

Synchronic is a trippy sci-fi thriller that’s grounded in human emotion, thanks to a layered and compelling performance from Anthony Mackie. If you’ve enjoyed Mackie’s previous works or are suffering from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier withdrawals, you’ll definitely want to check out this film.

Synchronic is currently available to stream on Netflix in select countries and to purchase on VOD.


Synchronic
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Synchronic is a trippy sci-fi thriller that’s grounded in human emotion, thanks to a layered and compelling performance from Anthony Mackie. If you’ve enjoyed Mackie’s previous works or are suffering from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier withdrawals, you’ll definitely want to check out this film.