A beautifully packaged but ultimately inert film.
2:22, the new film from Australian director Paul Currie (One Perfect Day), is a beautifully packaged but ultimately inert film. Stylistically, 2:22 fits into the category of slick, vaguely sci-fi urban thrillers alongside films like Limitless and The Game but isn’t as entertaining as the former or as smart as the latter. While both of those films establish a central conceit and then dig into it, 2:22 jumps around, dipping in and out of a variety of themes yet failing to convincingly relay any of them. The script, by Nathan Parker (who wrote Duncan Jones’ excellent Moon) and Todd Stein, never settles on what story it wants to tell.
Dylan (“Game of Thrones'” Michiel Huisman) is a New York-based air traffic controller who narrowly avoids sending two planes flying into each other. Suspended from work, Dylan begins to notice daily car accidents occurring outside his apartment at the very same time the planes nearly collided: 2:22 P.M. The pristine gloss on these opening moments is disconcerting. 2:22‘s team of air traffic controllers move and dress like models and can somehow afford stunning Manhattan apartments and front row ballet tickets. It all plays out like a Jerry Bruckheimer TV pilot with an abundance of shiny lights, beautiful people and dramatic poses.
Things don’t get any more grounded as Dylan meets Sarah (Teresa Palmer) at a stunningly staged aerial dance performance and discovers that she was on one of the planes he nearly destroyed and also that the two of them share the exact same birthday. 2:22 grows more compelling as Dylan and Sarah’s serendipitous romance develops, however the plot makes an abrupt shift around the halfway point, when Dylan discovers a set of old letters in his apartment and the film suddenly becomes a cold case crime thriller.
Though a late twist actually does a good job of tying together the various plot threads, the problem is that none of the threads are ever explored thoroughly enough to warrant any actual investment. And while a lot of care is given to technical elements, several significant story elements are treated lazily, such as an empty gun case signaling impending villainy.
2:22 does get some things right, such as an excellent soundtrack (and lively score by Lisa Gerrard and James Orr), and lovely cinematography by David Eggby (Riddick). It is also hard not to admire how earnest 2:22 is in its presentation. It is easy to see how much director Currie wants to entertain, even though his film never gels.
Huisman and Palmer turn in spirited performances, but they are given little help from the script. Huisman infuses Dylan with sensitivity and likability, making him easy to root for even when the script forces him into increasingly outlandish scenarios. And Palmer’s Sarah is elegant and charismatic, but it is incredibly disappointing to see an actress as talented as Palmer shoved into a helpless girlfriend role. 2:22 fails the Bechdel test, as Sarah is the only female role of any substance and she is completely reactive to her male counterparts. Diversity doesn’t appear to be a factor in any facet, as the only parts played by nonwhite actors are service workers like subway workers and cab drivers. As 2:22 is set in the very diverse New York City, this is particularly egregious.
Though it will win no points for storytelling, 2:22 features a reasonably satisfying twist, a beautiful soundtrack and first-rate visuals. And though its script sags where it should provoke, it is always nice to see a filmmaker really try to give audiences a true cinematic experience, even if the pursuit doesn’t pay off.