Review by Sean Boelman
Filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have gained a moderate and passionate cult following in the indie community for their twisty sci-fi mindbenders, and their newest movie Synchronic is arguably their most ambitious yet. Admittedly, some of their charm is lost in trying to make something slightly more mainstream, but their talents are still very much on display.
The film follows two paramedics whose lives are torn apart after a series of bizarre crimes tied to a new designer drug, including the disappearance of one of their daughters. Moorhead and Benson’s movies are best enjoyed knowing as little as possible, and this is no exception, but it is a lot more predictable and trope-laden than their usual work.
Viewers will be hooked by the really intriguing and mysterious first act, but when Benson’s script eventually settles on the direction in which it will be heading, the film almost becomes a bit too comfortable in its own skin. And at just over ninety minutes, by the time the story really starts to ramp up, the movie is basically over.
What makes a lot of fans love Moorhead and Benson’s films is that they are extremely thoughtful and use the genre’s tropes in a way that is consistently insightful. And they do a great job of taking the ideas and themes common to the particular subgenre of sci-fi in which they are working this time and putting a modern spin on them.
The character development in the movie is a lot more one-sided than one would hope. Viewers will be left wanting a lot more from the central friendship, and it could have been used a lot more effectively as a tool of creating emotion. The protagonist is sympathetic, but his arc is disappointingly conventional, especially given the typically unorthodox way in which the filmmakers write.
That said, Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan are great together. The best moments in the film are those in which they share the screen. Unfortunately, around the midway point, Mackie starts to fly mostly solo, and while he’s got a ton of charm and is able to carry the movie, the buddy angle likely would have made for an even better watch.
The film is also impressive in a visual sense. Moorhead and Benson have shown in the past that they are able to make a lot out of a little, and with this, they have obviously been given more money to work with. It’s cool to see what they are able to imagine when they have more at their disposal, but with this, some of the personal and fiercely independent feel is lost.
Synchronic is a step down from Moorhead and Benson’s previous movie, but they are still wonderful filmmakers and manage to make this an intriguing sci-fi flick. If nothing else, it will be a more audience-friendly introduction to their more complex work.
Synchronic hits theaters on October 23.