This is going to be a complicated movie review. I am way, way too invested in Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. Two extraordinarily fantastic Indie film makers – who, you should also know, from The Endless, Resolution, and The Spring. The Endless and Resolution being two of the most crazy, amazing, and complicated time travel-looping (?) films of all time. They are a single universe, and, it was hinted, by Messrs. Benson and Moorhead that Synchronic might also be in the same universe. (?!?) So, like I said, this review is going to be complicated. Why? Because Resolution and The Endless are two of the most ambitious and messy films I’ve ever watched. But the Synchronic is a double-hander. A super safe film, that will definitely get much, much, more widely distributed than all of their other films combined. Which, is fantastic for them…and I wish them glorious success. TONS AND TONS OF SUCCESS. But someone has got to level with me. IS SYNCHRONIC IN… or OUT, of The Endless/Resolution universe? So here is my Synchronic Movie Recommendation and Whine Fest.
If you haven’t seen Synchronic you need to watch it before you continue on. But I would actually recommend you don’t go out of your way to see their other films if you haven’t. If indie films are your thing though? You might actually give them a shot, and see if you like them in their own way. Because they are worlds apart.
Alright so, let’s walk through this movie, and talk about the details of how this movie works, inside and out. Then from there, we’ll see if there are any connections to the other movies. (Mainly, you’ll tell me if there are any, because I’ll be honest, I stopped looking for them.)
Synchronic Movie Recommendation and Whine Fest
The movie opens with a couple of individuals tripping hard on some Synchronic. They are so far gone that the drug does something strange to their brains – so strange that it flips them into an entirely different time? Maybe, or maybe they just assume they are time traveling when in fact they are hallucinating? We’ll have to see what is the what in this regard. But one trips all the way to the lands of the Neanderthals, and another out into a vast wasteland desert.
When the ambulance arrives at their location, New Orleans paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie), and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) arrive at a literal mess. The woman has been bitten by a venomous snake that hasn’t lived in that area for years. And the man has fallen through the elevator shaft and has been impaled by the internal workings.
On another call, Steve – a single ladies man, who spends his nights and weekends drinking and sleeping around – and Dennis – a married man worried about his teenage daughter – discover three more people tripped out on Heroin and Synchronic. The guys don’t realize it, but they are on the trail of a new designer drugs that literally sends people out into different times, and then brings them back again…or not. Depending. (See the section on Synchronic Rules).
Between cases of Synchronic Time Travel Chaos, Steve learns that he has late stage brain cancer, and that he is dying. Dennis, with a teen and a new born, is too worried about holding his family together to notice what Steve is going through. But things get dramatically worse one day when Dennis’ daughter, Brianna, disappears and doesn’t return home. That same night Dennis and Steve come upon another Synchronic party aftermath where someone there mentions that Brianna has gone missing. This sends Dennis and his family over the edge as they try to hunt and find her.
Soon after, Steve starts putting two and two together that these various violent medical cases are all connected to this new designer drug Synchronic. Determined to do something good with his last few remaining days, cancer or no, he starts hunting down this Synchronic, and buys up all the Synchronic he can find. When he does, a man who says he created the drug, offers him thousands of dollars for what he just purchased. But Steve refuses. Later, that same day, the chemist breaks into Steve’s home in order to steal the Synchronic. But Steve tells him he destroyed it all. The problem, the chemist says, is that he might have accidentally created a time portal with the drug. He wanted to make sure all of it was off the market. Synchronic, by messing with the individual’s Pineal gland, allows the person to see all of time simultaneously, and to travel in time.
As luck would have it – Steve’s pineal gland is busted…it’s still retaining the elasticity of a child’s pineal gland. Which means his ability to travel in time is totally different than an adult’s. Instead of tripping balls, and going nuts while traveling, he’s able to move through time with a more logical perspective on what it is that is happening. Wait, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. So, yes, Steve gets rid of the chemist, but later, starts putting it together that Brianna probably used the drug to travel in time, but is now trapped elsewhere. To really figure this out though, Steve starts experimenting with the drug in order to figure this thing out. His hope then is that he might then be able to travel to when Brianna is, and bring her back.
What Are The Synchronic Rules?
As Steve starts experimenting, he quickly begins learning how the drug effects time, and impacts the person traveling:
“A Pill makes someone with a young pineal gland go completely to another time for 7 minutes.”
“The exact place where you are when the drug kicks in determines the time you go to.”
“Don’t be late.”
“What you can bring back with you is… chance?”
Steve begins learning that locations are specific to the time one goes to. Not just now, but then as well. Once the traveler jumps, at the seven minute mark, they need to be back at the spot, or they’ll miss the return jump. Also, he learns that bringing other animate objects back is somewhat tricky. He took his dog with him, and wasn’t able to bring him back. Which, doesn’t really bode too well for his ability to bring Brianna back, but he is running low on Synchronic, and needs to start searching for her specifically. Therefore, he really needs to find the exact location that Brianna took the Synchronic. To that end, he jumps once, from the location he assumed she was…in a chair, near where the others were, that he and his partner visited earlier that week. But, instead of finding Brianna, he finds people chanting around a fire who think that he is a god.
So the trick of the movie is simple…they need to find Brianna. And to find Brianna, they need to find where she took the drug. Well, Steve fills Dennis in on what has been going on in his life. His cancer. The time travel experiments, everything. And he asks for his partner’s help in figuring out where she might have taken the drug. Eventually, they realize that it is probably a prominent location. One that would make sense to either Brianna, or her father. And he realizes that it was probably at a rock, out near the river, that we saw her sitting on earlier in the movie. Going there, they notice that someone has scratched “ALLWAYS” into the side of the rock. Dennis realizes that is Brianna’s doing, and that she is sending a signal to them. (This literally is 19 leaps of logic too far for me. I’ll explain later… but no. This didn’t work for me.)
It’s also during this conversation that Steve starts to wax eloquent about how losing the chance at living has caused him to appreciate what it is that he has. This time. This place. And that in times past, it was very difficult for people. But he has been realizing, as his time is coming to a close, that he has been very lucky… even in spite of the bad things that have happened in his life.
Since the two of them now know where Brianna jumped from Steve jumps, and finds himself caught up in the middle of a civil war battlefront. There are dead all around him. And after yelling out for a bit, Steve eventually finds Brianna there in the trench, hiding among the dead. (This is also problematic as well.) And as the two run back to the location where they jumped from, the rock, Steve is confronted by someone from the southern army, who may just kill them both. He has a musket, and a problematic, drunken look on his face. This is the South after all. And this is obviously a time period that is partial to slavery. But Steve’s goal in this moment is to just protect Brianna, and make certain she is able to jump with his last Synchronic pill. Obviously, the plan was originally to both jump together…
Ultimately though, Brianna jumps when Steve was dealing with the southerner. Steve, seeing a landmine on the ground between the two of them, tries to convince the man to come towards him, in hopes of triggering it. When he finally does, it kills the man, but Steve realizes that he took care of the threat too late, and Brianna was already gone. It’s then that Steve, via a ghost-like apparition, says his goodbyes to Dennis, and the movie ends.
Synchronic – What Did I Just Watch?
It was pretty obvious that Benson and Moorhead would need to settle things down a bit in order to appeal to a wider audience. For example, intentionally remaining aloof, and completely abstract to the point of bafflement, isn’t a theme that goes over well with standard Hollywood fare. Sure, it worked well for us movie geeks who love to be confused, enjoy parsing the smallest of details, and revel in the challenge. But for the casual movie going audiences that just want an entertaining yarn? Yeah, no, that approach isn’t going to work. Like, not even a little bit.
Which, brings us full circle to the question I started this post with: “Is Synchronic connected to Benson and Moorhead’s other two films, The Endless and Resolution?” And that is where I bring that question to you. Personally, I would have expected a character or two from the previous movies (Even Benson or Moorhead themselves) tripping through the film at some point. Or, better yet, I would have expected the idea of the recursion loops to present themselves somewhere here. If you don’t remember, or aren’t aware, these other two movies basically lock characters in domes of time that repeat over and over again. In both films, there was this idea that maybe Pan, or some demigod, was playing with the movie characters, and inflicting these loops on them repeatedly for giggles. Or, until the characters were able to make the screenplay writer happy. But here, with Synchronic, there isn’t any of that going on at all. Yes, there is the idea of time travel. Nothing similar though to the looping themes seen in the other two movies. Personally, in my mind, they are not connected. At all. I’m sure in the comments below you all will find lots of interesting connections that I can’t wait to read. But it is literally going to take Benson or Moorhead wandering through to tell me directly I am wrong to convince me otherwise – but I do not believe Resolution, The Endless, or Synchronic are connected.
I will say this, that there was one really interesting idea that bubbled up during the movie that we have talked about here on THiNC. before. And that was this idea that we generally know where we are all headed. This idea that most people have a long decline in bed, in the hospital, or at home before we die. Or we have a quick decline in bed before we die. But we all generally know that we will generally all deteriorate because of some disease, or plaguing health issue. That we are all heading in the same direction of entropy. And that only a few of us (proportionately) will have a sudden death that takes us out of this world. So, if we know where we are all heading, we should make do with the world that we are given, and the time we are allotted. Steve’s sacrifice was interesting in that, even though he only had a little time left to live, he gave all of it to his best friend, and his daughter. He made the noble sacrifice, and considered their loss deeper than his own. It was an intriguing life choice that he made.
But there were moments in this film that were just nonsensically inspired. Like for example, the choice that Brianna made to carve on the rock. Why would she assume that anyone would be able to figure out how to jump back in time to save her? If that was me, and I got dumped into the Civil War, I’d leave the battlefront immediately, and resign myself to my horrible situation. Try and remember as much of my Civil War history to become a paid soothsayer! Something. But I would have assumed that that was it for me. I was stuck. Such is life. Another thing I disliked very much, was the much too long goodbye at the end of the film between Dennis and Steve. Yes, he made an amazing sacrifice, but the dog definitely didn’t have that kind of time with Steve, so why?
Overall though, it was an okay film that had some interesting life lessons to take away. The connection back to Brianna’s rock was a bit clever…and I even noticed the Allways carved into it after she disappeared at some point in the film. The idea that a drug could open up an area of your brain to allow you to time travel, another interesting idea. But I will say this film is something of a double-hander. Especially after experiencing the previous films that came from their inspired partnerships in the past. I do understand that I was coming to the movie expecting so much more. I am trying to drop those expectations and just deal with Synchronic, and only Synchronic. But I suppose I know way too much about their oeuvre. So, I’ve given the film a solid 3.0, though I don’t really believe it deserves it. But hey, tell me where I’m wrong and I’ll change my rating accordingly. Also, I want to hear from you as well, do you see connections between this film and their other films? Fill us in! Let’s make a comprehensive list.
Edited by: CY
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