Director: Tony Elliott. Starring: Robbie Amell, Rachael Taylor, Shaun Benson. USA, 2016. IMDB: 6.4. My rating: 2.5/4. Timelooped sci-fi thriller.
– He has apples.
– Nobody has apples anymore.
– He does.
(conversation between the military guys at the 3rd and 43rd minute of the movie)
– I was ordered to recover an energy turbine. Apparently, it’s a time machine.
“ARQ” is another try to approach the famous Groundhog Day effect, now in a very limited space. Through just few strokes and accidentally heard TV news it seems that the diminishing amount of fuel becomes the cause of armed conflicts in the world in not so distant future. We just have the vague picture of what is happening as only in last minutes the story gets out of the appartment, where a young couple tries to protect an innovative machine that could possibly change the concept of producing energy. But as they wake up in their bedroom, the house gets assaulted by strangers in masks and they got killed. Seconds later, they wake up again at the same place and time and the situation repeats as they try to find the way out of the loop to save the machine. Welcome in the company of groundhogs!
The movie is tensely filmed and certainly doesn’t leave you bored. With each loop (and there are a lots of them), more and more details are revealed and characters seem more complex than before, multiplying and stratifying. It’s fast paced, so you don’t have too much time to think over inconsistencies of the plot. There are also enough twists to keep you interested. The problems arise with the casting for main characters – unfortunately Robbie Amell does not have the drama of Jake Gyllenhall (great time-loop sci-fi “Source Code”) or the sense of comedy of Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day”) and Rachael Taylor is not as sensitive and brutal as Emily Blunt (from another time-loop gem “Edge of Tomorrow”) and can be rather annoying. Amell at least tries to look trustworthy, but Taylor most of her acting is a slightly open mouth and eyes. Considering that 99% of the movie is shot in just several rooms and everything is pretty minimal, that can be a little tiring. The right chemistry here is missing. I saw her in Jessica Jones and she was much better there. Fortunately, the wild team of the unknown militaries compensate that well with more charismatic Shaun Benson and Gray Powell.
The main gimmick is used too much – the movie lasts barely 90 minutes and that is not much, but almost all of the time we see the same time-loop in different variations. As we all know, exemplary exercises in minimalism are so difficult to comply. “ARQ” is no exception – though it tries pedantically. As many noted, if cut by half it would be an great episode of something like “Black Mirror”.
“ARQ” is a full-lentgh debut for Tony Elliott, who was mostly a screenwriter before (including highly popular “Black Orphan”). I couldn’t find any info about box office. The budget was under $ 2 million.
Worth watching? While “ARQ” is certainly not a new word in the genre and does not reach the heights set by its predecessors, it can still be entertaining and fun to watch.