A pair of New Orleans paramedics encounter a designer drug that alters the spacetime continuum. Synchronic is a complex science fiction film with engaging lead characters. It wraps an intense personal drama around mind-bending metaphysical concepts. A dark color palette and trippy visuals significantly add to the overall experience. Not every aspect is successful, but the intriguing bits are certainly good enough to keep your attention.
Synchronic opens on a bizarre crime scene in a dingy hotel. Two veteran paramedics, Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan), are briefed by the police. The first victim was bitten by some kind of exotic snake. The other suffered a less kind fate in the elevator shaft. Steve finds used packets of a drug called Synchronic. He nurses a headache and a rough hangover. Dennis complains about having a rebellious eighteen-year-old daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides), and a newborn infant. The men have been best friends since childhood.
Incidents involving the mysterious drug start popping up over the city. Steve finds a clue that leads him to a possible dealer. He also hides a major secret from Dennis, who continues to struggle with his homelife. Their job takes a devastating turn when the medics are called to a rooftop with several overdoses. Brianna attended the party, but vanished after taking Synchronic. Dennis and his wife (Katie Aselton) are distraught. An unexpected encounter forces Steve to consider other possibilities regarding Brianna’s disappearance. He decides to try Synchronic to find out what the victims are actually experiencing.
The film establishes an eerie mood early. New Orleans is seen with a muted color scheme juxtaposed against a vivid night sky. The Milky Way then dissolves as a transition to different scenes. The camera periodically rotates at odd angles while the unnerving score buzzes heavily in the background. Directing partners Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (V/H/S: Viral, The Endless) also use jump cuts at intervals to tell the story. Scenes are viewed again from different perspectives and points in time. These elements come together quite brilliantly. The filmmakers get top marks for technique.
Synchronic’s exploration of time travel is fascinating, but becomes diluted by an equally heavy concentration on the dramatic subplots. There’s too much going on. Steve deals with multiple problems while discovering the drug’s true effects. Dennis and his wife have an emotional breakdown when Brianna goes missing. The film veers into melodrama while trying to keep the sci-fi mystery front and center. Justin Benson wrote the screenplay. He’s got a creative script, but needed to pare down the characters. This is a difficult choice when you have Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan. They’re so good, you want to give them as much screen time as possible. The film would have been better served by focusing more on the Mackie narrative.
I couldn’t help but compare Synchronic to Netflix’s Project Power. Both take place in New Orleans and have similar drug interaction storylines, but aim for different audiences. Synchronic is not a popcorn action film. It’s a hard sci-fi mystery with dramatic depth. There’s a sophistication to the plot that’s not for casual viewers. I highly recommend for genre fans. Synchronic is a production of XYZ Films, Patriot Pictures, and Rustic. It will be released by Well Go USA Entertainment in theaters and drive-ins on October 23rd.
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