Dark by Noon

| July 16, 2015

If there’s a type of movie that I have a particular affinity for, it’s time travel movies.  There’s something about that genre of sci-fi that is fascinating to me, and has been since I was a kid watching the Back to the Future trilogy.  I like thinking about what’s possible when a time machine is involved, the implications of fate vs. choice, and the ways writers can play with structure in a story like this.  I’ve even come to appreciate how different time travel movies approach the rules of time travel differently, and enjoy trying to justifying them to myself.  Something like Looper which is a very complicated timeline to untangle is a lot of fun for me.

Dark by Noon also has some interesting takes on the idea of time travel.  The story is about Rez (Patrick Buchanan), a British thug trying to make some money to take care of his daughter by volunteering for an experimental time travel program called Titus.  Titus is a machine that will shoot you into the future for a period of 20 minutes before you have to return to the present.  This allows the people running the project to launch subjects like Rez ahead a day and gather valuable information on the stock market.  Things go wrong when Rez finds himself in an abandoned complex after a jump and discovers that the neighboring city has been destroyed by a nuclear bomb.  Returning to the present, he has precious little time to figure out how to stop the bomb and rescue his daughter.

That is a pretty good setup to a movie.  That’s a movie I’d be very interested in watching, and while Dark by Noon mostly delivers, it does fall short in a few ways.  First, it isn’t long before the various timelines start repeating and overlapping as Rez keeps trying to use the machine to accomplish different tasks.  Again, I’m all for time travel movies being able to do this type of thing, but here it felt needlessly complicated and unnecessary.  Matters are made better/worse when Rez learns that the machine can in fact go back in time, which makes sense since it has to be able to send people from the future back to the present.  I say this makes it worse because things get even more complicated and the movie tries to have the discussion of fate vs. choice much too late in the film for it to pay off well.

I do like the time limit in the film.  That kind of pressure is generally a good way to raise stakes in any story, but giving the time traveler 20 minutes to return to the machine so he can get back to his proper timeline before his cellular structure begins to deteriorate is a fresh take on the time travel story that I haven’t seen yet.  I am reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 currently, which does do a slightly similar idea.  In that, it’s not that the time travel itself, or being displaced from your own time is detrimental to your health so much as the past is a living thing that actively tries not to be changed.  It may do things to stop you like stop your car from starting, or send thugs to mug you, or give you cancer if it means preventing you from potentially changing something massive and greatly altering the future.  It’s a lot of fun, but I also like how clear-cut the rules here are.

I think I’d get more on board with the movie overall if the performances were a bit better.  It’s bad enough that Buchanan is constantly too intense and melodramatic, but the other characters all match that intensity.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, having all the characters trying to emphasize how serious the situation is.  I don’t need a comic relief per se, but I do need all of the characters to have their own unique voice.  Everyone talks in the exact same way with the exact same sentence structure and cadence to their voice.  I think there are more characters in this movie than I’m aware of because they looked too similar to each other and talked exactly the same.  Hard to say.

The only special feature on the DVD is the movie’s trailer.  Available on DVD from Olive Films on July 21.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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