A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Synchronic is a sci-fi movie about a synthetic drug that causes people to travel through time -- and, unfortunately, to sometimes disappear. Violence can be intense, with gory, wounded, and burned bodies; attacking mobs; guns, swords, and other weapons; a war scene with falling bombs and a man exploding from a landmine; a character with cancer; some scary stuff; and more. Teens take drugs -- both the fictitious title drug and pot -- and characters sometimes overdose. Adults drink heavily and regularly, sometimes getting very drunk. Characters also take codeine/painkillers, etc. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," and more. A scene takes place in a strip club, but there's no graphic nudity. Sex is discussed several times, and a married couple cuddles in bed. The movie is less clever than it pretends to be, but it's still a solid choice.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In SYNCHRONIC, Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) are New Orleans ambulance drivers and best friends. Dennis is married, with a teen daughter, Brianna (Ally Ioannides), and a new baby; Steve is a hard-drinking playboy. At work, they've discovered that people are dying from a drug called Synchronic. At the same time, Steve finds out that he has a lethal brain tumor in his pineal gland. Then, Brianna turns up missing after having taken the drug. Dennis struggles with trying to find her, while Steve buys up all of the drug he can find to keep it off the street. He soon discovers that it works with the pineal gland and has the ability to transport its user through time. After a few experiments, he realizes that he may be able to use his remaining pills to find Brianna and bring her back.
Is it any good?
This sci-fi movie is arguably more of a chase movie than anything with deep themes, but it still nicely balances a nifty idea with surprising FX, strong characters, and classical suspense. Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead -- who contributed a segment to V/H/S: Viral and crafted the excellent low-budget sci-fi movie The Endless (2018) -- take a slow-build approach to their story in Synchronic. They establish the nuances of the characters and their relationships, as well as the details of Steve and Dennis' job, long before anything supernatural comes up. Sure, the drug reacting with the pineal gland and Steve's cancer being in the same place are a bit too much of a coincidence, but it's forgivable.
When the time traveling finally kicks in, we already know Steve and everyone else quite well, and we've come to care quite a bit about them. The time-travel sequences are dark and brutal, highlighting a world history of violence, persecution, and raw survival. It's a stark contrast to something like Back to the Future, which Steve verbally demolishes while watching it on TV in a bar. Benson and Moorhead find a muted, naturalistic visual style that seems to connect all the times together, perhaps with death as a common denominator. But even though Synchronic is frequently dark and heartbreaking, it also movingly celebrates sacrifice and heroism, as well as family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Synchronic's violence. How did it affect you? Did it seem necessary to tell the story?
Is teen drug use glamorized? Does the movie warn teens away from using drugs?
How can science fiction be used to tell stories about who we really are?
If you could travel to any time, what would it be, and why?
- In theaters: October 23, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2021
- Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides
- Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
- Studio: Well Go USA
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug content and language throughout, and for some violent/bloody images
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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