Released: 11th February
Seen: 23rd July
Time travel in movies is always a fun thing to try and deal with because everyone will try to logic around it. I saw this happen most recently with Endgame where a large amount of people kept trying to explain away how none of the time travel stuff made sense because it should’ve created alternative timelines and things of that nature (something that grew so large that Marvel just spent a full season of television going “look, if an alternate timeline did happen, these space cops would come and stop it”). I have a personal rule about time travel in movies, which is “It’s not a real thing, it’s literally a trick to explain why modern day people are in the past, stop overthinking it” which is possibly why I had a somewhat good time watching Synchronic which might have one of the more interesting uses of Time Travel I’ve seen in a while.
Synchronic follows a pair of paramedics (pairamedics?) who are just having a somewhat regular night. Steve (Anthony Mackie) is trying to deal with a cancer diagnosis that has sent him into a bit of a depression while his friend Dennis (Jaime Dornan) is trying to deal with issues at home. Both of them keep happening upon a series of strange cases that all seem to revolve around a new drug called Synchronic, and these cases become much more personal when Dennis learns that his daughter has taken this drug and gone missing. Turns out the drug might have given people the ability to go back in time, and Steve will have to work hard to try and figure out how it does this so he can get Dennis’ daughter back.
Thanks mostly to the pair of lead performances (god it’s so nice to be able to regularly praise Jaime Dornan for a performance, after the 50 Shades franchise I was worried I’d never like his work) Synchronic manages to be engaging throughout its brief runtime, even when it’s indulging in lengthy exposition sequences about how this version of time travel works. Working in its favour is the fact that it relegates the time travel element to the second half of the film, letting you get invested in these characters before we start messing with things like time travel.
The attempt to have one of our characters figure out how this specific kind of time travel works is fascinating, watching them do actual quick scientific tests to figure out how it works is really something quite interesting to witness. It’s also very confronting to have a black man be the one to go back in time… because let’s be blunt, a black man in America going back even 50 years is not in for a good time and this film leans into that, albeit in short sharp bursts but enough to really hammer home how dangerous these trips back in time are. It creates a strange tension that just grows more and more with each passing pill.
Those pills might be the only problem I have with Synchronic because, while it’s very silly to argue about time travel logic (it’s magic science, stop overthinking it), when you have a character in the film that literally says, “I’m the one who made those” and don’t then explain why they can’t just make more when it’s needed, that’s a major problem. There’s also just the fact that once we get to the stuff about time travel in the second half that Dennis kind of becomes completely useless. The film barely uses him except for the occasional cutaway to remind the audience that he exists, but he doesn’t take part in anything or help in any way. He’s there because of some reasons, that’s it.
Still, despite that, Synchronic is still an interesting take on the time travel film. With enough creativity behind it to make for a compelling film, it’s one that at least offers something original and interesting to this subgenre of films. Might not be for everyone, but it’s going to give a decent time to most who watch it.