Film Review

Benson & Moorhead’s Synchronic

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead have consistently been putting out wild, innovative and boundlessly creative ideas into cinema including Lovecraftian romance, esoteric doomsday cults, otherworldly time loops and more. What’s so great about their work is that along with these very grand, high concept SciFi ideas they always have the right application of atmosphere and tone as well as extremely believable, well written characters to back it up and with their newest film Synchronic they just may have outdone themselves. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play two New Orleans EMT’s who are also steadfast besties, their bromance banter a huge asset to this story. They seem to be getting a lot of disturbing calls lately, of people injured or hurt very badly after taking a mysterious experimental street drug called Synchronic, which is available in Vape form at various stores. It’s basically a synthetic DMT compound that acts on the pineal gland to provide unnervingly vivid hallucinations, but what really happens is that for the duration of the high, you quite literally go backwards in time to a random period of history, could be five years ago, could be five thousand years ago. This powerful but dangerous ability is the lynchpin of a story that involves these two characters as Dornan struggles with family issues, Mackie wrestles with a terminal illness diagnosis and the drug itself comes into play in ways you might not expect. Both actors are terrific especially when onscreen together, with Mackie being the standout and taking full blooded advantage of the deep, ponderous and soulful writing. What really makes the film sing is the synergistic flow of atmosphere, music and special effects for the trips back in time and there are several breathtaking set pieces including a Spanish conquistador in a damp bayou, a hellish picture of the New Orleans harbour on fire sometime around the civil war and an absolutely stunning trip back to the ice age. These sequences feel fully realized, immersive and tactile and where other films would take a high tech gadgetry approach to time travel, this one uses the onset of the drug’s effect in an eerie, elemental biochemistry fashion to transport us into the film’s realm. Moorehead and Benson floored me with their 2015 film Spring (couldn’t recommend it enough) and then their follow up The Endless left me a bit underwhelmed but for me this is them roaring back into cinematic innovation on all levels with a wondrously moody, unbelievably creative SciFi that’s sure to become a classic. Brilliant film.

-Nate Hill

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