DisplacementReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 03/16/16 14:07:13
SCREENED AT THE 2016 BOSTON SCI-FI FESTIVAL: Short-term time travel is the trickiest sort of science fiction to create; it doesn't necessarily have to be a perfect Moebius strip structurally, but any shortcomings in that department must be more than made up in other ways. "Displacement" makes valiant efforts in both directions, and while not everything comes together, it does okay; at the very least, many science fiction fans will find as much to like add to nitpick.It starts, as these adventures do, with grad student Cassie Sinclair (Courtney Hope) waking up in an ice bath with her memory fuzzy, and her boyfriend Brian (Christopher Backus) murdered in the hotel suite to which this bathroom is attached. It turns out that all of this is related to some sort of time-travel experiment which has Cassie jumping forward and back on the t-axis, trying to get information from faculty adviser Peter Deckard (Bruce Davison) and friend Josh (Karan Oberoi) while avoiding a mysterious organization represented by Dr. Miles (Sarah Douglas). Visiting Cassie's recently deceased mother (Susan Blakely) might be nice, though.
It's not a requirement that the female protagonist of a time-travel story be named Cassandra or some variation, but it must be almost impossible to resist giving that name to a lady who knows the future but will, sadly, never be believed. That's not the only familiar element to be found in filmmaker Kenneth Mader's script; there's the combination of one person being amnesiac and others being cryptic, and dire warnings all of this will tear the universe asunder if Cassie's activities aren't carefully controlled. There's also, unfortunately, the frustrating tendency to set up a situation that only works if cause-and-effect form a tight loop in one scene and then having Cassie break that sequence in the next.
Even without that consistency being as tight as it perhaps should be (an odd thing to ask from a movie about changing the past, it's true), Displacement is still able to play the circle-back game very well: There is an unmistakable tingle at roughly the hallway mark when the viewer realizes that she or he has seen something before, and Mader spends much of the movie's second half nurturing it, retroactively making plenty of earlier scenes more fun and raising hopes that the solution will involve Cassie being really clever versus a combination of technobabble and just wanting something enough. At its best, this movie does a great job at tapping into the pretzel-twisted charms that are a kick to untangle.
It's a little less sure on the more emotional elements. Starting somewhere in the middle makes Cassie's sense of loss harder to get a handle on, as the movie spends a lot of time telling us she feels devastated by her mother's passing while star Courtney Hope is busy showing her puzzling out what is going on in the plot. Hope is actually quite good when she's out in a position where she doesn't have to play things close to the best, as are the rest of the cast - Sarah Douglas is nicely menacing, and a scene between Susan Blakely and Bruce Davison does a better job of sketching out the relationships between some of these characters than Lou Richards doing a stiff take as Cassie's distant father. Mader just seems to have a hard time putting things in the right place at times. Often, the movie doesn't seem sure whether its locations are spread out or compact, most strangely when Cassie walls about how her mother didn't get to see the ocean one last time when it practically seems to be in her backyard.It's a decent run at the material, though it's more a movie good for a single afternoon than something to be revisited multiple times to see new ways that it fits together.
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