Friday, October 21, 2016



Can there ever be too many films with a Groundhog Day premise? The answer is no, there cannot. But at the same time you can't expect all time-loop movies to achieve the same level of brilliance as Groundhog Day did. For one, Arrow's cousin is a far cry from Bill Murray no matter how you slice it.

Written and directed by .

The Netflix original film ARQ really has more in common with Edge of Tomorrow anyway. It's heavily focused on the sci-fi. It differs from Tom Cruise's alien invasion flick though, by being very small-scale and intimate. Only six or seven characters exist in the whole film, and 97% of the movie takes place inside one small building.

The premise, in my opinion, doesn't need much explaining besides the time-loop part, but it follows , who wakes up to his home being invaded by a group of men and is killed trying to escape them -- only to have it happen again, and again, and again. He (along with his ex, , who is unaware of the time loop) must figure out what the men want, how to stop them, and what in the world is causing time to loop in the first place. The result is a twisty, winding thriller flick that keeps things fresh in spite of its repeating events.

As Edge of Tomorrow proved, the ability to kill off your main characters and effortlessly bring them back is a huge win-win situation.

This film is small budget, so the best things it has going for are the things that separate it from other films of its kind. And it doesn’t have the wow-and-dazzle element of a big production, so it’s forced to be smart to keep the plot moving. It is smart, giving out plenty of neat plot twists along the way. However, it’s clear that it wants to be a bigger film than it could be. It’s set in the midst of a post-apocalyptic war, which is talked about as if it’s a huge thing, but we never get to see that side of things. And the world is used to try and push the steaks up higher than they probably needed to go. The plot worked out well; that didn’t need a change, but the focus was spread too wide by then end, when it probably would have been more compelling if it had stayed intimate and personal. Instead it didn’t quite land solidly on either front.

I don’t think the film was successfully made to be exactly what it was meant to be. It isn’t that drop-everything-and-watch-right-now Netflix-produced entertainment that we’ve tentatively come to expect, but those are high standards. ARQ still has plenty to recommend it – even if it just comes down to its premise. The actors give convincing performances, and create characters that are worth rooting for. Thrills are delivered in good quantity via the fast-paced script that seems dead and determined to not just copy other time-loop tales. And just enough explanation is given along the way to keep us interested and not too confused. The R rating doesn’t go over the top and sticks with a handful of language and violence.

Not so smart that you can't understand it, but not so dumb that it gets boring. A nice balance on a small scale.

There’s really nothing about this film that makes it unmissable, but neither does it have any glaring failings to make it not worth recommending. For sci-fi fans who are not content to stick to the mainstream of action-heavy science fiction thrillers and crave a movie that makes you think a little, this is definitely a worthy trip to take.

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