Synopsis – A man’s life is derailed when an ominous pattern of events repeats itself in exactly the same manner every day, ending at precisely 2:22 p.m.
My Take – Films based on time loops can at times be quite chaotic, all depending on how the central mystery joining the whole sequence of events together plays out in the end. Unlike what was evident from its trailers, this film manages to be surprisingly better than I thought it was going to be. With a few flaws, not too far-fetched, the concept behind this thriller is a “put-together-the-pieces” type style that doesn’t get tedious quickly, mainly as the direction and visuals are spot on for the subject matter along with some commendable camera work. Whether or not you believe in faith or mere coincidences, the dramatic science fiction thriller from Australian filmmaker Paul Currie—directing his first film since 2004’s One Perfect Day—is one of at least three films this year that loosely plays upon the idea of history repeating itself, previously explored brilliantly in films like The Butterfly Effect, Edge of Tomorrow and Groundhog’s Day. The magnetized pull of fate is explored in this film is an attempt from screenwriters Todd Stein and Nathan Parker to create a brain-bleeding viewing experience big enough to compete with similar titles & it all boils down to the question of patience, with the best of the genre inviting viewer participation and decoding, stimulating a burning need to keep with the big screen puzzling. Thankfully that’s not the case here, mainly as the film has the creative drive to stick to being a solid mystery, and even with a few ridiculous twists and turns thrown in here and there, director Paul Currie manages to connect the dots in a fascinating way. The story follows Dylan Branson (Michiel Huisman), a hotshot air traffic controller who thrives on the adrenaline rush of the job, living alone in the heart of New York City. Blessed with the ability to pick out patterns in everyday life, until one day at 2:22pm, a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few crucial seconds as two passenger planes barely avoid a midair collision leading to his suspension until his official review. Traveling on one of these planes is Sarah (Teresa Palmer), an art gallery employee, who Dylan ends meeting at an air ballet concert called “Beginnings,” during which they lock eyes and are brought nearly to tears by the connection they make.
Magically drawn to each other, the pair begin to fall in love with each other hard, hereby disturbing the ego of her ex, a hologram artist Jonas (Sam Reid) working at the same art gallery. While this insane love story builds, Dylan starts noticing a pattern in his life that is not easily explained away. He begins to notice the increasingly ominous repetition of sounds and events in his life that happen at exactly the same time every day & finds himself drawn to Grand Central Station, followed by strange visions of people and events tied to a murder and the underlying pattern behind it all. Dylan senses something bigger is at stake here, and even though his blossoming relationship with Sarah is being effected, his mind can’t be quieted, hereby leading him to answers that test the boundaries of time and space. Nowadays films are generally made fast paced in order to appeal to a wider audience, the result of which you can just about tell from the opening few moments a film whether it’s going to hit the marks or not, and while sometimes a story takes a bit to get its stride, often you know straight away what you’re in for. Here, the film outright dares you to take it seriously despite the talk of believe in fate & yet ends up being agreeably intriguing. Writers Todd Stein & Nathan Parker should be commended for not hiding their interest in cosmic forces. Here, they cleverly combine metaphysics and astronomy (dissipated energy from a distant supernova may also be a contributing factor) in what could be considered a “Groundhog Day”-style film, but with a cumulative memory. Each day until his 30th birthday, the visions repeat, but his interpretations evolve in significant ways. The writers make sure that it’s not Dylan’s intellect, but curiosity that drives the plot of the film, as we watch how carefully a bearded 29-year-old man starts to embrace the details of the world around him, by displaying interest, not terror, in the Grand Central Station mystery, and perceiving something bigger than himself in the manner that everything comes together in a unique way at a special time, despite climax’s puzzling but not quite satisfying payoff. The central mystery of the film is expansive and intricate and doesn’t command detailed attention. Things get plenty weird for Dylan, who must reach into the past to control the present, making discoveries along the way that alter his perception of time. He also has to deal with Sarah, with their cutesy courtship and immediate love for each other tested by Dylan’s slight disconnect from reality, eventually going all crazy on the Grand Central Station enigma, furiously working out the formula for a doomsday he can’t quite wrap his head around. Like any film that confuses coincidence with fate, the story puts as much as it can into a string of similar incidents and hopes to give it a kind of doomsday feel as Dylan gets locked in a sort of dark Groundhog Day meets Knowing vibe. Meanwhile, Sarah becomes more involved and even part of the pattern. The fact is that there are many people like Dylan who see patterns in everything, and it’s easier to mock or write off their superstitions than to explore them. Even so, it’s not particularly credible for so many things to happen in Grand Central at the exact same time without someone who works there figuring out the pattern. The writers don’t want the film to become math problem and by introducing Sarah they help in warming up the film as Dylan’s love interest. They meet at an aerial ballet, feeling a direct connection as their small talk turns into confession, with Sarah actually thanking Dylan for not killing her during his latest airport stunt while she was flying home, which also threatened the lives of 900 people. Additional drama is supplied by Jonas, an absurdly pretentious artist who can’t get over Sarah, while his latest work is a hologram display of Grand Central Station, filled with the same details as Dylan’s visions. Somehow, director Currie manages to avoid dopey New Age sentimentality, even while he piles on the fickleness of fate. In fact, the film is really a nice little package that looks appropriately slick and mysterious thanks to cinematographer David Eggby.
Having been one of the producers of Mel Gibson’s Oscar-nominated war drama Hacksaw Ridge, director Currie proves himself to be a capable filmmaker himself, at least in terms of creating a slick film with solid production values and an effective use of his music budget, part of that comes from the film’s locations, including many scenes shot within Grand Central Terminal. However, I must say that every other character except Dylan and Sarah are exceedingly annoying stereotypes, a blame to be shared between the film’s screenwriters and the lesser actors in those roles. This includes Sam Reid as Sarah’s artist ex-boyfriend Jonas, who is about as pretentious as one can imagine, to the point it’s hard not to fall over laughing as you witness his “very serious” hologram light art exhibit, which just happens to cover similar ground as Dylan’s research. Sadly, this unintentionally hysterical moment also ends up being the catalyst for the film’s second half, which means we end up seeing far more of Reid’s character than anyone might want to. The revelation of seeing Jonas’ light exhibit sends Dylan towards the film’s inevitable resolution and a climactic ending that actually feels quite satisfying. It’ll be easy for the more cynically minded to entirely write this film off for subscribing and pandering to hippy-dippy theories about “fate,” although maybe it’s the type of film that shouldn’t be taken too seriously or literally, even if it never deliberately goes for laughs. The film’s screenplay once garnered studio interest before Currie came onboard to direct. It’s not surprising to see why, because it has elements that could easily have been turned into a far larger-budgeted film. Front credits for the film identify involvement from five production companies, two Australian funding entities, four producers, one co-producer, 13 executive producers, and three editors on top of an additional writer who revised the script. It takes a village to make a film, to be sure, but speculation suggests this committee approach may be responsible for dulling the film’s edge into something more palatably pat for mainstream channels. This is the recipe for turning a creative coincidence-conundrum thriller into cookie-cutter VOD filler. Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) is a good enough lead to keep you invested in Dylan’s journey, carrying the film effortlessly. Once again, Teresa Palmer (Lights Out, Hacksaw Ridge) proves herself to be an actor with more dramatic chops than she’s often allowed to show and shares a genuine chemistry with Huisman, which is critically important for us to buy into their immediate attraction and subsequent relationship turmoil. Sam Reid (The Riot Club) is also effectively slimy as her artist ex-boyfriend, Jonas Edman, in a typical 80s Hip villain kind of way. This film may not be the best example of this type of genre, yet it’s still a film that should appeal to those who enjoyed the silliness of the science-fiction concepts explored in the Bradley Cooper Starrer Limitless, or even Luc Besson’s Scarlett Johansson Starrer Lucy. It’s also a better film than the staggeringly similar 2009 Nicolas Cage Starrer Knowing. On the whole, ‘2:22’ is a flawed straightforward thriller made watchable due to its sharp cinematography, appealing actors and absorbing premise.
Directed – Paul Currie
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 98 minutes