The irony of “indie sci-fi movies” is that, generally speaking, science fiction films cost a pretty penny to produce, which means that filmmakers working with limited means have to be crafty, creative, and cautious with every single scene. Last year’s (highly underrated) Predestination proved this point resoundingly well: what the directors lacked in budget, they made up for with craftsmanship and creativity. The same holds true for Jacob Gentry’s Synchronicity, a very cool sci-fi thriller that feels partially inspired by Blade Runner, Dark City, Primer, and Philip K. Dick in general.
Synchronicity is about a brilliant physicist named Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) who, with the assistance of loyal colleagues Chuck (AJ Bowen) and Matty (Scott Poythress), has discovered how to craft a wormhole into another dimension–or so he thinks. It only takes one flawed run-through with Dr. Beale’s arcane technology before a problem arises. It seems that, while the machines were running, someone came out of the wormhole and ran off into the night.
From there, Synchronicity becomes an enjoyably circuitous collection of alternate realities and time-loop paradoxes–and it all takes place in a very handsome film noir-ish near-future universe. Not only does Beale have to contend with a reality that is crumbling in his wake, but there’s also a nefarious tycoon (Michael Ironside!) who wants to steal all of his research. Plus there’s a stunning femme fatale (Brianne Davis) who claims to love our hero, but is plainly hiding a whole bunch of secrets behind her winning smile.
The film is bolstered by great performances across the board: McKnight and Davis strike some great chemistry; Bowen and Poythress (reunited here with one of their directors from the still-great The Signal) provide colorful support work; and Ironside is, well, simply awesome. Synchronicity covers a lot of bases. The plot is contorted and occasionally convoluted but manages to avoid being confusing; there’s a nice sense of actual humanity tucked beneath all the high-tech sci-fi madness, and the Ben Lovett score, which plays like a wonderfully shameless love letter to Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack, is simply fantastic.
Toss in some lovely cinematography, a few key moments of welcome humor, an expeditious editorial approach that keeps things moving, and some truly excellent “near future” production design, and you’ve got one of the best indie sci-fi films of the past few years. So no, you don’t need to have Ridley Scott, a superstar cast, and a hundred million bucks to turn out a well-made, thought-provoking, and quietly satisfying science fiction film. Films like Synchronicity make that point painfully clear.