Synchronicity: Out of Sync, by Ian Brill
Jacob Gentry’s Synchronicity makes no bones about its influences, and audience members well-versed in the history of sci-fi films will be able to spot the visual tribute to previous films. Gentry, cinematographer Eric Maddison, production designer Jeffrey Pratt Gordon and the rest of the crew do an impressive job recalling Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The film is filled with hazy rooms in high-rise apartments, with shards of lights creeping in from window slats. Ben Lovett’s score is clearly taking cues from Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner, as well. Gentry and his collaborators also found locations that give the audience the impression this film’s reality is just around the corner, similar to what Jean-Luc Godard did in Alphaville. Michael Ironside has a supporting role, his presence reminding some viewers of his previous work in David Cronenberg’s Scanners and Paul Verhoven’s Total Recall. These tributes, while ultimately a superficial pleasure, are the film’s greatest attributes. The film falters by peopling this meticulously crafted world with muddled characters that make unbelievable choices.
Synchronicity stars Chad McKnight as Jim Beale, a scientist who, with his two comic-relief partners (A.J. Bowen as Chuck, Scott Poythress as Matty) is about to open the first wormhole on Earth and lead mankind to time travel. Despite the large implications, their set-up is a charmingly indie version of the Large Hadron Collider. Ironside’s Klaus Meisner is the investor that is a thorn in Beale’s side, a necessary evil as these corporate investors tend to be. Beale meets a femme fatale in Brianne Davis’ Abby, and is soon torn between scientific discovery and his attraction to Brianne. Brianne seems to be a pawn in Meiner’s game, making her dangerous for Beale. Halfway through, as one may expect, time travel shenanigans ensue and the film folds in on itself. But rather than discover new aspects of the film, it only brings further attention to its weaknesses.
The conflict Beale has between his invention and his attraction to Abby, who may compromise or just destroy what he has spent his life creating, makes our character seem selfish and unsympathetic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean uninteresting. Chuck even tells him that he has one of the greatest scientific discoveries at his fingertips, and he just wants to get laid. But the film doesn’t let McKnight play this conflict in an interesting way. He spends most of the film as dour and flummoxed. His intentions get more solipsistic, but the film does not indulge the brazenness of his acts. In McKnight’s performance and the film’s story, Beale’s journey is meant to be tragic. But since this his own doing, the audience becomes aware of this self-destruction on Beale’s part that the film does not seem to notice. The few bright spots in this storyline is when Beale shows some humor. It appears McKnight may have a future as a funny, handsome type in the vein of Paul Rudd and Ryan Reynolds. If only the film let Beale be more of a dick, instead of a guy who thinks with this eponymous appendage, the film could have had a compelling central struggle.
Davis fares better as Abby, displaying charisma and intelligence that saves an underwritten role. Her character and others all too often act in convenient ways to allow the film’s time travel conceit work. There are a few key moments that work under “Three’s Company logic,” that is when a situation is prolonged and characters are under stress because no one is willing to do the obvious thing and be honest with each other. Secrets are kept that make characters seem not just underhanded, but incompetent and unethical scientists. This is villainy is not used to play against Beale’s journey, but to allow it.
While an interesting visual accomplishment, Synchronicity’s allegiance to its forebears only reminds us in how it pales in comparison. The film’s driving plot is so mishandled that one is encouraged to watch the film on mute, and enjoy the spectacle while making up their own, likely superior, story.