Review: 'Synchronic' A Time-Warping Mind-Bender

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday October 23, 2020

Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie in 'Synchronic'
Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie in 'Synchronic'  

Writer/director duo and indie darlings Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead can always be relied upon to bring something utterly original to the screen. From their Lovecraftian romantic horror film "Spring," to their mind and time-bending story of a cult in "Endless," Benson and Moorhead never fail to give their audiences thrilling puzzles that keep the action grounded with rich characters.

With their latest, "Synchronic," they've forged ahead with A-list actors Jamie Dornan ("Fifty Shades of Grey") and Anthony Mackie ("Avengers: Endgame") to tell another time-shifting tale concerning two paramedics who realize an over-the counter drug is causing something strange and violent to happen to those that partake.

Dennis (Dornan) is teetering on the brink of divorce, with a moderately rebellious teenage daughter Brianna (Ally Ioaniddies) to boot. Steve (Mackie) has never been able to settle down and spends his nights having one-night stands and drinking. He's also been recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. These two are a fun pair.

After they answer a few calls that involve bizarrely violent acts (and with mysterious objects laying around), they realize the crimes could be linked to a drug called "Synchronic" that can be purchased at any marijuana store. When one of their calls indicates Dennis' daughter has taken the drug and vanished without a trace, Steve takes it upon himself to utilize the drug to find her.

What results is a trippy, time-altering thriller that might bend the rules of logic, but is highly entertaining regardless. The film does invest time in its characters, and the relationship between Steven and Dennis is never forgotten. In fact, it's the glue that holds the more unbelievable stuff together. To be fair, the film could have been more moving than was probably intended, but it still works.

Benson and Moorhead always craft good-looking films on a budget, and clearly have a bit more money this time around. The story, too, is more accessible than, say, "Endless," which twisted itself in so many knots it might have lost a few people. (For general audiences anyway.) But whatever they craft is always something that's not your run-of-the-mill sci-fi thrill ride.

Dornan and Mackie are excellent here. Dornan has sloughed off his matinee-idol/creepy Mr. Grey coat and wraps himself up in a character that is nothing like his most famous role. We've seen him get down and dirty before in "The Fall," so it's a nice reminder that "Fifty Shades" was just good exposure for an actor that deserved more.

Mackie justifies everything he can get, and he is terrific here playing a damaged soul that finds purpose in his final days.

In a time when the world is finally taking the time to notice the filmmakers that tend to be off of the general public's radar, it's great that "Synchronic" is getting a timely release. Now, more can experience their unique brand of filmmaking and hopefully studios will snatch them up to use them for bigger projects in the future. Whether Benson and Moorhead do that or continue to keep it small, we can always look forward to whatever world they come up with next.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.