One of the very few advantages of the current global situation is many people’s ability to catch up on the content they might have missed, or challenge themselves with something different. Of the many choices coming your way in the next twelve months, few can boast to be as different as Synchronic.
Avenger Anthony Mackie stars as Steve, a New Orleans paramedic who parties too hard between shifts. A routine medical exam reveals that Steve has a brain tumour, with only weeks to live. He starts buying up supplies of Synchronic, a new designer drug that has taken the lives of some locals, in order to deal with his situation. He soon finds out that the drug enables users to see time differently, and travel between centuries for minutes at a time. He decides to use the drugs to find the missing daughter of his best friend and work partner Dennis (Jamie Dornan), hoping to find a way to control the trips before the pills run out.
“Dying man time travels with drugs” is a different kind of film pitch, something even the film acknowledges in scenes where Mackie admits the concept sounds “kangaroo shit crazy”. Plunging itself into the dark world of paramedics, life threatening illnesses, and broken marriages also means this is far from Back To The Future. However, while it’s a bumpy ride, directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson comes across something truly unique.
Instead of trying to place a bet or witness history, Synchronic puts a lot of effort looking at the way we spend the time we’re given, before it starts to tinker with it. Steve’s philandering hides a broken soul, while Dennis contemplates life at the end of the rainbow as a married father who feels life has nothing more to offer. Like we said, it’s dark, and you’d be forgiven for spending the first half of the film wondering when we get a break from the relentless gloom (a flashback that connects Steve to Hurricane Katrina just feels unnecessarily sombre).
Eventually, however, Mackie grabs Synchronic’s main concept and runs with it. The man who inherited Captain America’s shield has made some intriguing choices outside of the Marvel Universe, and makes this film soar through the sheer force of his charisma. While we have to do some mental gymnastics as the rules of time travel are set, the star gives Steve an everyman perspective. “The past fucking sucks, man!” he cries hilariously after some experimental visits, before drunkenly critiquing Marty McFly.
He infuses comedy into a very bleak film while still keeping things serious. Steve’s videotaped trials of the drug could be a movie on its own as his beloved dog looks on in confusion after each seven-minute disappearance. Dornan is heartfelt as Dennis, even if his purpose begins to wane as the plot moves on.
Synchronic is a peculiar film with flaws, but one that succeeds in trying something completely different. At its heart is a message of appreciating the moment, embodied by an actor who shines in the spotlight.
Synchronic is available On Demand from 29th January