If there is one thing that science-fiction movies love to grapple with, it
is the possibility of time travel. According to most Hollywood writers,
there seem to be two different ways of dealing with time travel. Either the
past can be altered and the future improved, as in the "Terminator" movies,
or the seldom used possibility that the past cannot be changed, as explored
in Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys". "Frequency", the new film from director
Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear"), is a movie which falls under the first
category yet it is different from most films like this; we are able to see
the effects of changes to the past on the future as they occur. For example,
we get interesting scenes like one in which a character in the past burns a
message into a desk, while a person in the future watches the words appear.
However, "Frequency" does not attempt to deal with the paradox problems
which arise when dealing with time travel. You'll have to decide for
yourself if this was a good idea.
John Sullivan (James Caviezel) is a burned out cop (burned out cop seems to
be a common profession) who is having marital problems with his wife,
Samantha (Melissa Errico). One evening, while drowning away his miseries
with beer, he stumbles across his father's old ham radio. John turns it on
and discovers that he can somehow use it to communicate back through time
and speak to his father, Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid), who has been dead
for thirty years. While the two are, at first, disbelieving what has
happened, they are soon catching up like old friends. John finds that he may
be able to save his father's life if he can warn him about the accident
which will soon claim it. While John does manage to save his father's life,
it alters the future in ways which he could never have forseen.
For all you fanatical sci-fi fans out there, I'd best warn you that certain
things are never explained in this movie. The ham radio being able to
communicate back in time is only explained as having to do with massive
solar activity at the time, which isn't much of a scientific explanation.
The time paradox, which would be created by changing the past, is never even
brought up. A time paradox would be something like this: If a person is not
originally killed in the past, and a person in the future changes it so that
person is killed in the past, he wouldn't have existed in the future for the
person in the future to try and change the past. In other words, this is the
sort of thing which you can think about forever and it just goes around in
circles. This is why I personally think it's best that the movie didn't try
to explain it. Besides, you'll be having far too much fun with the rest of
the film to care about little plot inconsistencies like that.
The nice thing about a movie like this, which has no big name stars (except
the always underrated Dennis Quaid), is that it is forced to rely upon a
good script to draw a crowd. Afterall, last year's godawful "Wild Wild West"
proved that a movie with big name stars and no script simply doesn't work.
This isn't to say that the no name actors in "Frequency" don't do a good
job. James Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line") does a very good job of showing a
wide range of emotions without going over the top. Dennis Quaid
("Dragonheart") gives his usual fine, understated performance, and Andre
Braugher ("Primal Fear") turns in a great performance as Frank Sullivan's
cop friend, Satch. Of course, the actors are assisted by some good, if at
times a bit too sappy, dialogue. Great lines like "I wanted to let you know
you went down thirty years ago, you just don't know it yet" are sprinkled
throughout the movie.
In addition to the nice performances and dialogue, "Frequency" has a few
other things going for it. Gregory Hoblit's direction is quite impressive,
He keeps things interesting by moving events along at a steady pace and only
allowing sequences to drag on a little too long once or twice. The
soundtrack nicely compliments the story, It always plays softly in the
background, rather than overwhelming what is being said (Which is a common
practice these days). "Frequency" is one of those good natured movies which
are now so ill received. While there may be violence, that isn't what this
film is about. It's about a man able to reach back in time and talk to
someone who he never had the chance to say goodbye to. "Frequency" is a good
movie which will unforunately do poorly at the box office due to lack of
star power, advertising, and the ever popular extreme violence. The film
runs 117 minutes, which might have been cut down to 105 with a bit more
editing. I'd recommend it to fans of time travel stories and give it four
out of five stars.
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Copyright © 2000 John Beachem