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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Synchronicity (Blu-ray)
Synchronicity (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // May 10, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted May 14, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

It's hard to see straight hard fiction in cinema, the kind that's not mixed with action or fantasy in order to appeal to mainstream audiences. Most of the hard sci-fi concepts require fairly big budgets to pull off, but since the genre appeals to a niche audience, studios usually don't take a gamble on them, no matter how unique or interesting the material might be. Even in the indie world, it's hard to find good straight science-fiction examples. Duncan Jones' Moon is the last great example I can think of, and that was seven years ago. That's why it's important to seek out similar works from directors who manage to find a premise that would fit a lower budget and take a chance on this risky genre.

However, that doesn't mean that we as fans have to automatically support such a film if it doesn't work. Co-writer/director Jacob Gentry's intimate and melancholic time travel flick Synchronicity is one of those examples. While appreciating Gentry's audacity in putting together an unusually solemn and emotionally charged hard sci-fi story with an obviously low budget and a limited access to high concept locations and special effects, it's also hard to ignore the film's glaring tonal and thematic issues. The oppressively cold and isolated modern world Gentry and his team creates is impressive, and there's promise in this director to one day create a formidable example of the genre. However, Synchronicity falls short of this promise due to an unnecessarily convoluted plot and an awkward approach to the story's borderline satirical themes.

It's about a scientist named Jim (Chad McKnight), obsessed with building a machine that will simulate a wormhole. After testing the device on a plant, Jim meets his ruthless rich investor's (Michael Ironside, in bad guy autopilot mode) mistress named Abby (Brianne Davis), a melancholic aspiring novelist who's, get this, writing a novel about a scientist who's trying to invent a machine that could simulate a wormhole. As Jim tries to build a relationship with Abby, strange events begin to take place. The people around him act as if they're hiding something from him, and he suffers from debilitating headaches.

The problem is that early on, not only does it become very easy to figure out that we'll see the other side of each mysterious occurrence during the second half of the story, but the specifics of the mystery becomes extremely obvious. With such a predictable time travel paradox tale, we at least expect the themes of the story to be engaging and unique. However, a protagonist who decides to use an extraordinary power that most people would die to achieve to basically attract a member of the opposite sex is a fairly goofy premise that's counterintuitive to the film's dour tone.

There was opportunity for some smart satire here, about mankind getting caught up in their basest instincts when faced with an opportunity of grand cosmic importance. There's a quick line by one of Jim's colleagues about Jim having access to the secrets of the universe, but he uses it to get laid. But apart from this line, the satirical elements aren't explored properly. As if knowing that the big twist would be predictable, Gentry spends most of the third act throwing every possible time travel paradox to the story, hoping one of them will stick. Not only do they fall flat, they also create a frustratingly convoluted finale.

The Blu-Ray:

Video:

Synchronicity's cinematography answers the question, "What would Blade Runner look like with 1/50th the budget?" The film creates a more isolated and intimate version of a dystopian cyberpunk setting that's awash in cold blues and grays. DP Eric Maddison is also more in love with lens flares than JJ Abrams, which can be annoying. The film's 1080p transfer stays loyal to the source, is clear and crisp, without any color bleeding.

Audio:

The DTS-HD 5.1 track does a good job transferring the film's subtle, dialogue-based audio. The subdued score is mixed well, and provides nice surround ambiance to the mostly center channel-based audio. The creative sound design around the wormhole machine occasionally engages the surround channels. Otherwise, don't expect much surround activity here.

Extras:

Commentary by Jacob Gentry: In this energetic and informative commentary, Gentry mostly focuses on the technical aspects of the film.

Interview with Chad McKnight: A fairly short EPK-style interview where McKnight talks about his character.

Interview with Brianne Davis: An even shorter interview.

Interview with Jacob Gentry: If you don't have time for the commentary, watch this interview, since it goes over some of the same points.

Music Video: The theme song set to images from the film. Nothing very interesting here.

We also get a Trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Gentry's ability to create a lived-in science-fiction world and an impressive atmosphere with such a low budget is admirable. However, the film suffers from enough of a tonal imbalance and an over-convoluted approach to the subject matter that it's hard to recommend to even the most hard-core genre fans.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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