Written by Justin Benson and directed by Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Synchronic is the filmmakers’ follow-up to 2017’s The Endless and boasts the same brand of trippy, time-travelling science fiction.
Set in New Orleans, Synchronic follows two middle-aged paramedics (Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan) as they respond to a series of bizarre, and gruesome, calls linked to a new party drug called Synchronic. When the daughter of one of the paramedics goes missing at a party after taking the drug, his partner is determined to find out what happened to her and uncover the truth.
One of the things that I appreciate most about this film is that it starts off weird – and stays that way. Benson and Moorhead know what they are doing. The time-travel sequences feel both intimate and terrifying. One of the film’s central themes is human connection (or a lack thereof) and this is reflected in the way that space and distance is used to contrast the scenes that are rooted in “reality” with those that take place under the influence of Synchronic. Visually stunning, Synchronic is infused with disorienting cinematography that made me deeply regret that I was watching it at home and not on the big screen. It is also well-paced and the moments of humour, though rare, are placed exactly where they need to be.
Though I found the film immersive and engaging, I wonder if I would have liked Synchronic more if I weren’t familiar with Benson and Moorhead’s previous films. Compared to their other work, Synchronic feels a bit predictable. There are certainly a few twists and turns but, by the half-way point, it’s pretty clear where things are headed. The emotional impact of the ending is deadened by just how far in advance the viewer can see it coming. The third act also becomes a bit preachy and heavy-handed in terms of spelling out the theme.
Synchronic is clearly a film about masculinity, intimacy, and male friendship, so I wasn’t bothered that the female characters were treated as secondary and tangential. However, the missing daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides), is barely developed as a character. Since Brianna’s disappearance is central to the plot, it would have been nice to see more of her relationship with both her father and his partner before she goes missing.
This is still an imaginative, visually compelling sci-fi flick that is worth a watch. But ultimately, Synchronic is a good film – but it lacks the nuance and subtlety to be a great one.
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