For a while now, filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have been ones to watch. They have a unique and intelligent approach to genre filmmaking from their debut Spring to The Endless. They work with low budgets to create mindbending premises that never forget the emotional connection needed in sci-fi and horror to make things impactful. Their newest film Synchronic continues this streak.
The film follows two New Orleans paramedics, family man Dennis (Jamie Dornan) and addict Steve (Anthony Mackie). They have some early run-ins involving sword wounds, deaths by burning, and missing persons that seem to be tied to a new drug called Synchronic. Things get real with Dennis' daughter (Ally Loannides) disappears at a college party where the drug is found. Steve takes a stash of pills from the party and soon has a break-in involving the designer of the drug (Ramiz Monsef). They learn that the drug can transport people through time, assuming they are teens or have a lethal brain tumor. Steve happens to have the tumor and begin to experiment with the drug. The coincidence here is one of the few lazy elements in a film chock full of ideas.
Moorhead and Benson use the fact the Steve is black wisely. He isn't welcomed in many of the times he travels to. In a nod to our current times, Steve also faces almost getting killed by a cop in the present time. Synchronic is full of visual flair. There is a great opening moment where we see a couple taking the drug and a plant in their room begins to gather frost, suggesting where the pill is going to take them.
The film's pacing may be a bit slow at first for genre fans but stick with it. Once it kicks into full gear, the film is thrilling. There is also great attention to the characters in the film. This helps elevate the film beyond a cool premise. We learn about these men and it makes a climactic speech about what Steve has grown to appreciate about life from traveling through time impactful. It helps that Mackie gives a great performance here.
Synchronic has some faults, mainly the pacing at times, but it is the kind of sci-fi that I get excited about. There are clever ideas but they all serve a more character-driven story. Moorhead and Benson continue to be filmmakers to watch and it is exciting to see what they come up with. Each new film seems to further cement their standing as some of the genre's most creative minds.