95ers: Time Runners (2013)

Rating: C-

Dir: Thomas Gomez Durham
Star: Alesandra Durham, Joel Bishop, Terence Goodman, Ian Paul Freeth

I’m going to explain the plot in some detail, mostly because the film doesn’t bother. Let’s start of with the basic first principle: Sally (Durham) has the ability to crank time back a few seconds, giving her what amounts to infinite resets. She has parlayed this talent into a career with the FBI, where’s she’s renowned, for example, as a crack shot – since, if she misses her target, she just rewinds and shoots again. She was married to theoretical physicist, James (Bishop), but he vanished under mysterious circumstances, leaving her pregnant and looking back on the night when he proposed to her – she almost left him just before that. As a side-project, she’s investigating unusual phenomena in the area, to which there appears to be some kind of pattern. If only she could figure out what it was.

Meanwhile, apparently in an apocalyptic future, there’s an effort to send someone back to that ‘tipping point’ in Sally’s life, and alter the course of things thereafter. Note: I’m not prepared to bet my life on the above, but it’s probably close enough, and will help you if you’re trying to watch it. For the problem here is a common one on small-scale productions like this: eventually, the creators become so close to the production, they are no longer seeing it from the viewer’s perspective, and stuff they “know” goes painfully unexplained. It’s like how you can write something, make a typo and your eye will see what you intended to type. An outside eye, however, will immediately say, “That’s spelled wrong.”

Here, Chris was the control group, and 30 minutes in, she turned to me and said, “Do you have any clue what’s going on here?” Any film about time-travel needs a great deal more rigour: we are never told the limits to Sally’s talent, or what else she tried to do with it. For instance, given the heroine’s skill, becoming an FBI agent shows a distinct lack of ambition; if they’d given her a criminal tragedy in her past, that would have been a credible inspiration. The script badly needs someone with an outside eye to point out this, or the other weaknesses. The story may have been inspired by A Christmas Carol, but if you’re looking for a version of that involving time-travel, Dr. Who did it an awful lot better: the main connection here appears to be a local am-dram version of the play, which serves little or no purpose. Based on the film’s Kickstarter page, the budget looks to be around $150,000, and the makers do get good bang for their bucks, with the timestreams depicted using some whizzy CGI.

The rest of the technical stuff is generally solid, though the audio mix is a bit wonky, with the future scenes sounding muffled and quieter than the current-day ones. Generally, though, it doesn’t appear especially low-budget, and deserves kudos for that. The performances are mostly functional, though future-tech Brego (Freed) appears to have strayed in from a different (British!) movie. I note the lead actress and director share the same last name, and wonder how much that, rather than pure talent, played into casting: I’ve worked on enough low-budget film to know such things do factor in. But she’s not an embarrassment. Overall, the same could be said for most of the movie. I tolerated it better than Chris, whose attention was clearly flagging by the end, likely because I read up on the plot beforehand. Pre-viewing homework really should not be a pre-requisite for any film, however.