Mild Spoilers Ahead
Time is a peculiar and elusive thing. It is constantly the present, but every second that passes, is constantly the past. Time is also infinite, yet we only have so much it and we can never get time back. In Moorhead and Benson’s new film ‘Synchronic’, time is a drug.
Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play EMT’s working the city of New Orleans. They discover a new designer drug that people are taking called synchronic. It is one of those kinds of drugs that is considered legal that is sold at head shops or out of the back ads in magazines like High Times. While on their ambulance runs, they discover mysterious things that are happening to people associated with the drug; one person has been stabbed by a sword that looks like it came out of the 16th century, while another woman they encounter, got bit by a snake that isn’t from the region. Mackie’s character, Steve, has had enough of seeing people suffer from the drug, so he heads to the local head shop to buy up all the of synchronic so no one else will be able to, and while doing so, finds out that the drug has been discontinued and that he has purchased the last remaining packages of synchronic on the planet. While at the head shop, he also runs into the creator of synchronic, Dr. Kermani, whom was there to also buy up the last remaining supply of the drug. The doctor ends up breaking into Mackie’s apartment to try and steal the synchronic, but Kermani gets forced into explaining to Steve why and how he created the drug and the effects it has on people. Moorhead and Benson utilize this expositional opportunity brilliantly, by having Mackie videotape himself experimenting with the drug, to explain to whomever may be watching the tape, how the effects of the drugs work, but it also in turn, explains to us, the viewers, how the time travel works with the drug. It’s a very clear and concise way to show us how the “rules” of time travel work in this film. Anyways… wow, that was a mouthful and that was only the first part of the story that kicks off the rest of the story—and I didn’t even get into any of Jamie Dornan’s character Dennis’ plot line in this first half, but I had to explain all that just to have any of this make sense!
This is Moorhead and Benson’s fourth outing as a directing duo. They are one of the most unique voices working within the independent genre realm, leaning more into the sci-fi side of things with elements of horror mixed in. They have Christopher Nolan level ideas, but with a fraction of his budgets. They each share other duties of filmmaking while directing their films; Aaron Moorhead doubles (or is that quadruples!?) as producer, cinematographer, and editor, while Justin Benson also writes, produces, and edits. They were also lead actors in their previous outing, ‘The Endless’. While watching the close relationship that Mackie & Dornan’s character Dennis share on screen, I couldn’t help but imagine that it’s a reflection of the kind of close relationship that Justin and Aaron share together.
Moorhead and Benson’s films have always had decent festival runs, but none of them have exactly gotten that great of play as far as theatrical outings. ‘Synchronic’ has gotten them their highest level of distribution—and I’m sure that having a Marvel superhero sidekick as the lead of your film doesn’t hurt—but this was almost surely due to the circumstances of covid-19 pushing all the major studio tent pole films into next year and there being a gap where indie films like ‘Synchronic’ can break through and get some playing time on the multiplex screens. But it seems to be viewed as a bittersweet blessing by them. They each posted on their social media’s—while being as diplomatic as possible about the matter—about how they are urging people to not go to indoor theaters to see their film, being that the “scientific community indicates that enclosed spaces like movie theaters are still a hazard for spreading the virus.” What a catch-22 for them to be in. It’s a strange and twisted time that we are all living in. Maybe one day someone will create a synchronic-like drug, and we can all take turns sitting in the same spot on a couch, and go back in time to view the film ‘Synchronic’ with a packed house. Ya never know, things just as crazy have been happening all year!