Movie Review: ARQ

“The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again.”

It’s Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow in a locked-room science-fiction mystery, starring Stephen Amell’s cousin and Jessica Jones’s best friend. It's streaming on Netflix.

Renton (Robbie Amell) a maybe-former military engineer, wakes up at 6:16 a.m. as three masked men burst into his bedroom. They tie up Renton and his maybe-ex-girlfriend Hannah (Rachel Taylor). They claim they want money, but they are awfully curious about the ARQ, which may look like a jumbo-sized pasta roller, but is really a “hyper-efficient energy turbine.”

Things go sour. People die. Everything resets. Because the ARQ is not just a turbine. It’s a time machine. Renton keeps it in his basement. (Where do you keep yours?)

Wait…A Time Machine?!

Yes, a time machine—a fact that many people in this movie seem fairly unsurprised by, which delights me. I’d be all fangirly and crazy if I got to hang out near a time machine. (I’d feel the same way about a jumbo-sized pasta roller, but that’s a squee! for a different review.)

At first, only Renton is aware that time is repeating, and there are some enjoyable death sequences as he tries and fails to best the masked men. Gradually, other characters become aware of what is happening, and the plot twists come faster than a jumbo-sized pasta roller making rotini.

If you liked Groundhog Day…who am I kidding? Who doesn’t like Groundhog Day? If you liked Edge of Tomorrow, you’ll enjoy this movie’s take on the standard looped-time plot. Almost all of the film takes place inside a nearly-ruined house, we could say the fate of the world is at stake, so that’s all well and good.

But the real highlight is Rachel Taylor as Hannah. I liked Rachel Taylor in Jessica Jones, but this movie gives her even more chance to showcase her ability to play strong, smart women who still have emotional nuances. The best shot in the movie is about one minute long: it’s just Hannah’s face as she comes to terms with something unbelievable, and Taylor nails it without saying a word.

Robbie Amell is fine.

The worldbuilding is provocative, albeit sometimes clunky: newscasts run in the background, informing us of events on Los Angeles Island, the complexity of the Torus Corporation’s global war, and the words of wisdom offered by a female pope, some of which—like the lead quote for this review—are pulled from Nietzsche. In this near-future dystopia, the air is poisoned, nobody has access to fresh fruit, and people keep time machines in their basement. I’d like to know more about that world, especially the time machine part.

All in all, this is a movie that does exactly what it’s supposed to do: provide a fun time-travel plot with some convincing tech babble to lend credibility to the existence of the thing that’s not a giant pasta-roller. There’s a twist at the end, as there is supposed to be, and it’s a good one.

Three out of four apples.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


migmit said...

I can't stand Bill Murray, and for that reason never watched "Groundhog day". Does that count?

Josie Kafka said...

It does.

That's an interesting implied question, too: does everyone have a famous actor they can't stand (but whom everyone else loves)?

Mine is Tom Hanks. I don't hate him, but I have no affection for him.

Billie Doux said...

Another example of our continuing psychic link, Josie -- I don't like Tom Hanks, even while acknowledging that he's a really good actor. I've often wondered if it is a combination of my distaste for Forrest Gump and a bit of peeve that Hanks beat Morgan Freeman that year when Freeman should have gotten the Oscar for Shawshank Redemption.

ARQ sounds like a fun movie. I'm definitely going to try it.

mazephoenix said...

Can't stand Hanks either. He's nice and all, but too bland. I hate Forrest Gump so much. Even more so now that I recall he beat Morgan Freeman(who I adore) to an award.

Billie Doux said...

It's a good Groundhog-esque flick. I liked it. I particularly liked how the rules kept changing as the memory situation changed. I loved the comparison to the jumbo-sized pasta roller, Josie.