Time travel movies may not have dime-a-dozen familiarity, but they're not exactly novel either. That means that directors who venture into this territory must do so with an awareness that they need to come up with something that feels fresh.
Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who directed the tantalizing Endless, take an unusual approach in Synchronic, a movie with a time-travel twist. They tell a story that doesn't appear to be about time travel at all -- at last initially.
Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan portray two New Orleans paramedics, best friends who are bombarded by constant drug-overdose calls, so much so that Synchronic looks like another foray into the world of drugs and despair but it's not quite that either.
Synchronic, by the way, is a powerful pill that opens those who swallow it to seven minutes of time travel that takes place from the exact spot where the drug has been taken. Travelers play a game of time-travel roulette: They can't control the period in which they land.
Synchronic puts plenty on its plate: friendship, the vanished daughter on Dornan's character, a crumbling marriage, a terminal disease from which Mackie's character suffers and travel to various moments in history -- the Ice Age to the time of the Conquistadors among them.
As the movie's principal time-traveler, Mackie's Steve faces all manner of danger in his seven-minute forays into alternate realities, the idea being that past, present and future actually are concurrent. References to Einstein and physics are made, but the movie hardly qualifies as an intellectual exercise.
The directors can't entirely fuse the movie's diverse elements and not everything about Synchronic works. For me, though, Mackie's complex character keeps the movie on track. Dornan holds his own, as well, and Synchronic nudges its way onto the plus side of the sci-fi ledger.