Synchronic – TIFF 2019 Review

Synchronic is a lot of things. It’s an elliptical noir, a compelling drama, an absurdist sci-fi parable, and an enjoyable romp! The latest film from directorial duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, is yet another ambitious success into their ever-growing catalog of interwoven genre fables. Moorhead and Benson have essentially perfected their formula of small-scale high-brow cinema; and with Synchronic, their unique lens for human stories and genre-fueled entertainment, is the front and center spotlight. With a clearly higher budget, an incredibly motivated cast and crew, and a directing duo who never seem to lose focus on what they want to achieve, there’s was honestly not much room for tragic failure to begin with.

It’s been proven time and time again, that you can do quite a lot with big ideas on a small scale. Synchronic further proves this way of methodical film-making, with a film that commences with standardized dramatic fair (cancer diagnosis included); and eventually evolves into a bi-product of its extraordinary imagination. Regardless of the occasional poor lighting, and some artificial rendering in some VFX shots, the imagery which Moorhead and Benson aimed to accomplish, more than makes up for some technical loose ends. The duo’s grandiose exploration of time, drug abuse, and forgiveness in long-term friendships, all contribute to a product that feels emotionally heavy and warmly fulfilled. 

Although, this doesn’t excuse some of the film’s occasionally off-kilter pacing issues. The main conflict I have with Synchronic, is more so in it’s execution than concept. Adding way too much noir-esque situational drama in its first act, and resolving it’s conflict with a cheesy and predictable resolution, there’s a certain imbalance between the two shifting tones. As much as I love a good happy ending, there’s barely any correlation between the moody, gritty atmosphere of it’s opening forty minutes, in comparison with it’s action-packed climax/finale. The real sweet spot is the film’s second act, where a grand reveal is taken place, as we see the lead protagonist go through a mental breakdown/revelation of sorts. What transitions into a one-man show from Anthony Mackie, ends up becoming the film’s highlight; an endearing portrait of a susceptible average Joe going through emotional turmoil.   

There’s no denying that there is plenty of fun to be had with Synchronic. Several moments throughout the film will have audiences gasping and awing from the sheer genre-driven appetite of Moorhead and Benson’s vision. It’s a bit loose and dysfunctional in mixing key essential thematic themes together; yet the rich direction gives life to what could have easily been a doomed and abhorrent flat film in the wrong hands.

Synchronic screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

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