Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides, Katie Aselton, Ramiz Monsef
Directors: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
“Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects” (IMDb).
»Currently streaming on Netflix«
What to Expect
Experimenting with drugs
Back to the Future
Why You Should Watch It
Anthony Mackie is bu-sy. Ever since making his way onto the big screen with a role in 8 Mile, his name has shown up on numerous projects every year for the past 20 years. From the critically acclaimed The Hurt Locker, playing Tupac Shakur in Notorious, to starring in Altered Carbon and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier—and of course being a regular in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—Mackie has proven his good taste in choosing roles (and agents, apparently).
Synchronic may not be a blockbuster movie, but the thrilling sci-fi is another win for Mackie, whose character works to unravel the mystery of a missing person and an ominous new drug. It’s weird and trippy and tragic. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this film is the fourth installment in what is becoming the Benson-Moorhead Cinematic Universe. So if you liked their other works Resolution, Spring, or The Endless, you’ll love trying to decipher their connections to Synchronic. And if you find yourself with cinematic-universe fatigue syndrome, have no fear; Synchronic works perfectly fine as a stand-alone film.
Rainy Day Flick (C)
I watched Synchronic at the recommendation of a friend, only allowing myself a look at the short synopsis and one trailer before jumping in. I was expecting something along the lines of A Scanner Darkly, with a touch of Enter the Void. A melding of reality and fantasy into a confusing psychological trip. The time-travel aspect threw me for a loop, and it was coincidentally parallel to a joke John Oliver had made just the day before on an episode of Last Week Tonight: that Black people don’t particularly romanticize traveling into the past.
This is part of what Benson and Moorhead wanted to explore in Synchronic. Steve (Mackie) uses the drug, synchronic, to travel back in time, each trip ratcheting up the danger until he lands in a literal war zone.
“There’s so many movies, that whenever they go back to the past—especially if it’s the 1950s or 1960s—it’s really romanticized and has this sort of dishonest sheen on it,” Benson explains. “Especially something like Back to the Future….If Marty McFly weren’t a white, heterosexual male, that story would be very different. There would be much bigger dangers than like his mom trying to hook up with him.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised at the time-travel aspect of the plot. The word “synchronic” is defined as “concerned with something as it exists at one point in time.” Boom. Instant spoiler. And I generally take issue with time-travel plots—usually in regard to changing the past—but, mercifully, Benson and Moorhead sidestepped that trope altogether. Now, instead of a film centered around time travel itself, time travel becomes a tool in solving a mystery, coming to terms with death and fate, and being the best damn friend anyone could ever ask for.
The pineal gland plays a major part in Synchronic as well, with underdeveloped (young) glands causing the synchronic user to stay stuck in the past, while solidified (older) glands help the user to only dip their toes into time travel for a few minutes. Luckily for Steve, his soft, cancerous pineal gland is what helps him figure out how to get his friend’s daughter, Brianna (Ioannides), back from 1800s Louisiana. And that connection between synchronic and the pineal gland was intentional.
“People feel like the doors of perception are via the pineal gland,” says Moorhead. “If this is a drug that is affecting perception, and also deals with these cosmic issues of death, let’s use that as a mechanism. So [Steve] having cancer on his pineal gland that seems to affect his method of perception [was] a natural progression.”
Fans of The Endless may also pick up on synchronic being made from the same red flower that the doomsday cult partakes in. And while there’s more connections between the two movies, I’ll have to rewatch The Endless (and see Resolution and Spring) before I can divulge more. Figuring out the interconnectedness of this universe is going to be so much fun.