Christopher MacBride's Flashback is a trippy deep into how we perceive time in order to make for a thrilling piece of uneven sci-fi. Think of it as the love child between The Butterfly Effect and Synchronic, but with less structure and more wild imagery.
Writer/director Christopher MacBride‘s latest piece of indie sci-fi, Flashback, is a mind-bending exploration of time and how it all adds up to make for one’s life. Dylan O’Brien continues to shine as one of today’s best and brightest, despite the film’s failed attempt at making it from start-to-finish. Still, I admire MacBride’s creative vision and bold storytelling methods that almost make for a great movie, but lands somewhere below the likes of similar tales that have came before it.
Fred (Dylan O’Brien) is trapped in a life that he doesn’t see much purpose in. His mom is on her deathbed and his girlfriend is begging him to pick a paint color, meanwhile at work he continues down the path of mediocrity, unmotivated and just unmoved by the events that are unfolding in front of him.
That all changes when Fred remembers a specific someone from his youth (played with curious intentions by Maika Monroe). Suddenly, his past obsession with this girl from his teenage years comes to the center of his existence and he must find out what happened to her. Fred enlists the help of some familiar faces, including a shady, but yet effective performance by Emory Cohen.
Next thing you know, Fred has unlocked the ability to travel through time however and whenever he pleases. I will warn you now that the next bit of review is going to touch up on some spoilers, so please feel free to scroll down or maybe even X out of this page (but please do come back).
It is at this very moment when Christopher MacBride‘s Flashback both becomes its strongest and also its weakest. Starting off with the strengths, MacBride has managed to make a trippy picture that deep dives into the multiple timelines, with the film essentially jumping all over the place as Fred understands how to navigate through time almost effortlessly.
Flashback goes from being a somewhat subdued sci-fi thriller that’s more surrounded in mystery than it is any sort of explanation to a force of puzzling, but ambitious science fiction that is very much a messier version of something like The Butterfly Effect or even last year’s highly-underrated Synchronic.
If MacBride would have given the script a few more passes, perhaps Flashback would’ve been the masterpiece that I was praising Synchronic to be. Or perhaps it would soon become a cult classic, much like Donnie Darko.
But as is, Flashback crumbles under the weight of its own genius. MacBride never really bothers explaining how Fred can suddenly traverse the sands of time, but we are thrown into a third-act sequence of many different outcomes that are all happening at once.
You as a viewer must simply accept that this is happening and then start to form your own opinions on the deeper meaning behind the film. Is MacBride trying to place importance on the past or perhaps he’s telling us that we have the power to alter the future by our actions of the past? Maybe Flashback is just a big simulation and the real story is the long-term damage drugs have on your system? I would love to read an essay about how the entire film was just one big trip and that Fred is long lost to the addictive drug known as Mercury.
I still can’t shake the feeling of wow that Flashback had on me throughout the film. There were definitely times of disbelief and moments that I thought MacBride could’ve executed with a bit more patience and understanding, but I still applaud him and the cast for putting together such a wild movie that held my attention for the whole way through.
Flashback is not for those looking to have their movies neatly explained come credit roll. It’s instead a thinking person’s movie, asking the viewers to form their own conclusions, either out of excuse for the lack of an idea on how to wrap things up or because MacBride truly wanted us to make our own experiences up as we viewed the film and added in our own personal commentaries.
Sometimes these are the best experiences to have, even if they leave a feeling of emptiness or a lack of completion.
Either way, I would encourage you go down the rabbit hole on this one and let me know what you thought when you come out on the other side.