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More people need to watch This Time Travel Sci-Fi on Netflix

Before you dive into Synchronic 2019, there’s one thing you should know.

It’s not like a low-budget sci-fi movie with an intriguing premise. It’s not like Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan are best friends. It’s not like its directors have directed a few episodes of Marvel moon knight.

It’s that Synchronic will really, really annoy you with its plot holes and inconsistencies and nonsensical time-travel mechanics spinning in your head until some wondrous counter-argument emerges from the haze and convinces you that it all makes sense after all.

Surprisingly, this is a recommendation to watch Synchronic. A frustrating, divisive, dark indie gem with brilliant flashes. It’s another taste of directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s exciting talent (check out 2017’s The Endless for a twisted taste of horror). Just lean into the rage that Synchronic unleashes, and eventually – on the other hand – you’ll have a rewarding experience.

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Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie play Dennis and Steve.

Well, go to the US

Mackie and Dornan play Steve and Dennis, two remarkably laid-back paramedics who work in New Orleans. You are called in to treat a series of people spreading incoherent stories after taking a drug called Synchronic.

Steve and Dennis investigate the origins of the drug and its impossible possibilities for time travel while also grappling with their crumbling personal lives. Steve is a jaded womanizer and Dennis is stuck in a broken marriage.

The best parts of Synchronic involve the actual sci-fi element itself. The discovery. Steve and Dennis are walking down a dark street in the middle of the night chatting about their normal lives until they enter a house and discover a shocking scene from a horror movie where someone has been stabbed and a medieval sword is inexplicably sticking out of a wall.

Thanks to a few tricks, Steve ends up taking the drug himself. This is where Synchronic gets exciting in an impressively visceral way.

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paramedic buddies.

Well, go to the US

From its low-key starting point, the film sends Steve and us into the terrifying unknown. The threat of sudden and violent death looms large because in this time travel story, Steve is black and returning to certain locations brings a whole different level of danger.

The mechanics of how the time travel drug works are intriguingly explored as Steve conducts experiments. An analogy with a record player alone is worth the appearance of a character. At one point, directors Benson and Moorhead shake things up by giving us Steve’s first-person perspective and putting us right in the driver’s seat to witness what emerges from the tense and unpredictable darkness of the next location.

Other aspects of the drug, including a slight departure from who is behind its development, fizzle. Also, the general sense of realism, while effective in some ways, can show how ridiculous the drug’s capabilities are.

Still, slick and shrewd direction and Steve’s dry sense of humor delivered with Mackie’s deadpan boast shine over Synchronic’s obviously rougher edges. Far from perfect, the story chains to the thinly developed emotional core involving Steve, Dennis and Dennis’ daughter Brianna. (A horrific scene involving Steve’s dog is either an example of bad character choices or a deliberate jolt to our emotional hearts.)

Synchronic’s bittersweet ending is frustrating, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of its larger parts. Hopefully the film will take you on a journey with Benson and Moorhead’s other films, four of which are part of a connected universe (some connections are stronger than others).

Synchron is now streaming on Netflix. It can be slow, with the occasional dodgy dialogue and an ending that leaves you feeling out of control. You need utmost attention when watching movies to pick up subtle details that explain what is happening. And yet it remains a matter of interpretation as to whether everything really makes sense. Take the plunge? Make up your own mind.

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