One can imagine that the paradox of time travel is probably the same as the paradox of alternate universes: attempting to change things is a very risky business. A group of reckless entrepreneurs discover this in the worst possible way in Parallel, a sci-fi-tinged thriller that impresses with its ambition but unfortunately limits its own scope.

Following an intriguing prologue, in which Kathleen Quinlan plays a woman who is apparently killed by a copy of herself, we meet the four friends at the movie’s center. Noel (Martin Wallström) is trying to make big things happen at his own company, which specializes in the technological inventiveness of its employees. He’s dating Leena (Georgia King), but she has been enjoying furtive flirtations with mutual friend Devin (Aml Ameen). Rounding out the group is Josh (Mark O’Brien), and the quartet has relocated to a house made infamous for the dark rumors surrounding it.

Leena’s discovery of the previous tenant’s in-depth journals raises some alarms with the other group, especially when they discover an old mirror in the attic. Stepping through it, Josh discovers an alternate universe. There, the timeline is nearly synced up, if not for the slightest difference: He sees himself and the others out in the yard, preparing to enter the house. Coming back to the present, he tells the others what he witnessed, discovering as he does so that the 15 minutes he spent in the other universe amounted to less than a minute in his own.

This sparks a stroke of genius from Noel: In order to further the process of his invention in the current universe, he will spend as long as it takes in the other one (where time moves more quickly) to come up with his ideas. This, of course, would mean sharing the information of one universe in another one, an ethical (and, of course, metaphysical) dilemma they grapple with for about 10 seconds before deciding it’s entirely worth it. Scott Blaszak’s screenplay is clever in the way it establishes this strange set-up and even touching in the way it uses the set-up to build character.

Each of them wonders what their other version is like, but for Devin, the question is more emotional than biographical. Is his father, who killed himself over a securities fraud charge in the current timeline, still alive in the other? That is just one of the dilemmas in which the characters find themselves, but everything ratchets up to 11 when two fateful things happen: Noel begins secretively building his current empire using more than simply the information from the other timeline, and the current version of Josh is shot with a bullet from the other timeline, dying after they’ve already transported him to his current reality.

This is a genuinely knotty situation, especially as they go further to kidnap the alternate Josh while he sleeps and never mention the situation again. What happens to the other timeline, in which a functioning human has disappeared without a trace? The ethical dilemma, then, becomes a moral one.

Blaszak and director Isaac Ezban (who employs distractingly swirly camera techniques) ultimately reveal themselves to be interested in what happens when a movie with a corker of a premise and a promising set-up shifts toward a lot of misguided violence (a gruesome bisection among them) and an equally misguided sequel stinger. To say the scramble toward a conclusion in Parallel is underwhelming is an understatement.

Summary
To say the scramble toward a conclusion in Parallel is underwhelming is an understatement.
60 %
Wasted Potential
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