Given that this is one of those time travel movies about nipping back in one’s own life to change an outcome for the better, I wondered whether writer-director James Morrison’s immediate inspiration came during a viewing of 12 Monkeys – or La Jetée – and a thought that maybe up-to-the-minute quantum theories unavailable to Chris Marker in 1962 might allow for a less serpent-who-eats-his-own-tail ending.
It opens in a desolate future after a plague has wiped out most of humanity, leaving .grieving botanical researcher Chris Towne (Ivan Sandomire) and angsty physicist Dmitri (Jamie Jackson) to hatch a plan to send Chris back to a point just after he had discovered a plant extract which would nip the pandemic in the bud but before he signed over exclusive rights to the cure to the Tyrell Corporation, who kept it off the market while the crisis jacked up the price and never did come through to save the world. A bearded, long-haired Chris shambles in the wake of his clean-shaven past self, a man so focused on his work and family – his wife (Erin Cunningham) and young son – that he doesn’t notice the world spiralling towards doom. He also gets in touch with the younger Dmitri, whose daughter (Nastassia Haroksha) may be destined to be among the first victims of the plague, and works hard to convince him that he can change the course of history. The opening takes place on an impressively devastated plain, but Morrison doesn’t have the budget to do much more than drop in background radio reports to convey the growing crisis – and, in a subliminally eerie development, the present-day scenes are almost as unpeopled as the post-apocalypse, with a mere handful of characters – the all-powerful evilcorp and Chris’s university are both represented by single blandly sinister middle-aged character actors (Andrew Sensenig, Chris Henry Coffey) – and the presence of time-traveling duplicates barely stretches the cast.
Similarly, the disease and the cure are boiled down to tiny items – a neck-boil and the ground petals of a blue flower – all the better to concentrate on the real meat of the movie, where it ‘diverges’ from the concerns of 12 Monkeys to address its new-ish quandary … if interaction with a past self creates a new timeline with two versions of the same person, does the older, theoretically tougher version who has corrected the mistakes of the callow youth and saved a loved one who would have died without this intervention have the right to dispose of the doppelganger and take up the life he has crossed time to get back? The performances are low-key, perhaps after the manner of the even more-intricate time-twister Primer, but work up a great deal of intensity, and the last act is thoughtful and intriguing. Not without its first film rough edges, this is a solid little science fiction film.