Review: Jacob Gentry's 'Synchronicity' is Familiar But Exceptional Sci-Fi
by Jeremy Kirk
January 27, 2016
Through the hazy light that seeps in via Venetian blinds and in the midst of the cold, dark hallways that make up the world in Jacob Gentry's Synchronicity, a mind-bending, sci-fi love story unfolds. Much of what plays out rests in familiar territory. The general design of the futuristic (but not quite future?) world is more than a little reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. But that familiarity in structure only serves the love story Gentry is telling, the greater of the two mysteries with which the filmmaker presents. With focus, determined pace, and nice swaths of dry humor, Synchronicity emerges as more than the sum of its influences' parts. Gentry succeeds in creating the world, implications and subtext of the story he's telling.
At the head of Gentry's story is Jim Beale (Chad McKnight), a physicist who believes he has the key to the greatest, scientific discovery in history. Along with his two colleagues (AJ Bowen and Scott Pothyress) Beale creates a method for opening a wormhole that connects his own world with one of a different time, possibly a different, alternate reality altogether. The answers to Beale's questions lie in the rare flower that appears out of the wormhole and the strange figure the physicist notices moving about the lab shortly after.
A mysterious girl, Abby (Brianne Davis), Beale soon meets after opening the wormhole may also hold a piece to this puzzle he is attempting to put together. Beale soon learns her intentions are different than what he was expecting, and the mystery that the scientist is attempting to unravel may be worlds apart from his expectations, as well.
Scripting from an initial idea by writer Alex Orr, Gentry, whose previous efforts brought us the second part of 2007's The Signal, fuses the mysteries of the scientific world with an organic, love story that takes its time unfurling. Beale, a hard worker who goes days without sleep, begins to question all he knows about the tangible universe, the drive for unlocking those doors as important and often more important than the effort he puts into close relationships. It's through Abby, though, that Beale finds a small measure of comfort even if her femme fatale presence is telling him to move to the other side of the street. It doesn't help that she also happens to be the mistress of the venture capitalist (Michael Ironside) behind Beale's project.
Gentry's screenplay moves in recognizable directions, but the ultimate results at the end are almost wholly unpredictable. Synchronicity seems almost compartmentalized by how minimal its cast is. This shows Gentry's efforts to keep the story on a humanistic, grounded level, the kind of story progression that keeps you focused on the character connections rather than the all-encompassing mysteries of the universe.
The film's production design is much more recognizable than the story itself. Despite the skilled efforts of cinematographer Eric Maddison, we feel like we've seen the spaces and corners of Synchronicity's world before. It calls to mind a number of equally mind-bending stories of science fiction that all appear to take place within the same world as Scott's Blade Runner. Gentry and crew utilize dark and dingy streets, elaborately constructed buildings, and the incessant hum and lights of helicopters flying overhead. It's familiar, yes, but Gentry's use of frame and clear lack of budget still keeps the story focused. Beale's world is slick and stylish, but the filmmaker telling his story does a fine job keeping it all on ground level.
The love story at hand is also strengthened by the natural chemistry McKnight and Davis bring to their characters' relationship. Davis is as stunning as she is gifted, and the presence she brings to the character of Abby overpowers her questionable motives. You get the impression she's up to no good, but you can't deny the inherent pull she has over the characters around her. Like Beale, you're fascinated by her and can't wait to unravel the woman's esoteric nature.
Bowen and Pothyress make up the comic relief in Synchronicity, their interactions with Beale as different from each other as they are entertaining. These two actors bring a dry levity to the proceedings, and you wish the film, which has very little in the way of wasted space, found more time for them. Ironside, on the other hand, is the typical, nefarious businessman we've seen so often in science fiction stories of this ilk. The actor delivers this naturally, as well. Though you're all too familiar with his reasonings, the actors air and charm make the character transcendent from like-minded characters seen in the past.
This is a good indication of Synchronicity's strengths as a whole. Though the story and characters are all somewhat household in the realm of science fiction, the execution behind it all offers something more. Jacob Gentry delivers here a film that looks and sounds familiar, but what it's ultimately saying is fresh, inventive, and clever. Your mind may not be as blown as the filmmaker desires, but your interests are definitely piqued by what Synchronicity has in store, especially in what the filmmaker has to offer next.