95ers: Time Runners

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/20/13 20:04:02

"Wants to be a franchise, may have some sort of shot."
3 stars (Just Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2013 BOSTON SCI-FI FEST: Considering the colon in its title and the way that certain bits of the movie's fantastical elements are not given a whole lot of explanation, I had "95ers: Echoes" (since renamed to "Time Runners") pegged as part of a larger franchise, maybe a transmedia thing with online videos or comics or the like. Right now, though, it seems to be just this, which still isn't bad at all.

Ever since she was a kid, Sally (Alesandra Durham) has had a unique ability; she can relive the last few seconds of her life. Perhaps ironically, the man who would later become her husband, Horatio Biggs (Joel Bishop), studied wormholes and other sorts of theoretical physics, but had no idea of her ability. Today, she's an FBI agent and a widow, probably overdue to go on maternity leave as Christmas approaches, but she can't help but be drawn in by a series of strange events that have been happening up and down Interstate 95 since her husband's death, especially since she's started seeing glimpses of him. "Meanwhile", in the future, a group monitors the way probability changes around her, considering when and if to intervene.

The credits for 95ers: Echoes contain the name "Durham" a lot - Alesandra Durham stars; James Durham co-writes, composes the music, and handles the sound; Thomas Gomez Durham co-writes, directs, shoots, edits, and works on the visual effects; many other (presumed) family members produce and otherwise work on the movie in one capacity or another, as do several other people. On the one hand, it's actually quite impressive how such a small group can put together a film with the kind of ambitions and relative polish that this one has; on the other, there are times when it maybe could have used an outside voice saying this could be clearer or that scene should be cut. At times, it feels like the world could do with a lot more explaining to those of us who aren't a part of the group while character-building could use less exposition and more example.

The filmmakers do juggle and present their mysteries well, at least: They toss concepts like a four-dimensional blast pattern and time travel mission control measuring probability into the script and generally keep them fun devices as opposed details that need to be slogged through. It's structured so that there's a big story at play but this piece is the linchpin, so the scale doesn't feel off. Sally's unique relationship with time is crucial throughout the movie, but it almost never feels like a cheat or like she's a Chosen One whose importance is the result of declaration rather than action.

Present-day Sally is also a fairly interesting character; she's smart and appears even more gifted because nobody else can see how she doesn't actually always hit the target on the first try. While this sort of superhero will often be portrayed as reckless, Sally is frustrated by things she can't control, and Alesandra Durham captures that pretty well; making her persistent, methodical approach to problems work with a seemingly-antithetical impatience, and she does just enough to keep the audience on her side even when the last act heavily leans on the character's less friendly qualities. It's not a flashy performance, but it's a capable one.

The same cannot always be said for the rest of the cast, although they're seldom actually bad. Joel Bishop is actually OK on-screen, but he can't do much with the over-written passages of Horatio's diary that frequently serve as narration. Terence Goodman goes a bit broad as Sally's superior, but it's the difference between his and Durham's styles that hurt more than the actual performances (there's a similar issue with Ian Paul Freeth and Chris Laird in the future-set scenes, only more so). Alix Maria Taulbee and Anne Sward are fine as the in-laws that spend the most time with Sally, but the group putting on a production of A Christmas Carol that use her house to rehearse should be cut with prejudice (especially since they the idea of Sally examining her past, present, and future as in that story is introduced earlier).

Technically, the movie is put together pretty well for a small group from Utah. Science-fictional production design and visual effects are well-deployed, so the audience thinks there's more than there actually is and resources aren't spread to thin when they're needed. The music and editing get enjoyably bombastic toward the end, which gives it a good climax. It's not going to overshadow a Hollywood production, but it works.

And, who knows, maybe some folks with a lot more money will see this and give Thomas Gomez Durham a chance to direct a bigger movie. It's a pretty nice thing for his agent to have in his pocket, at least, and folks looking for a decent sci-fi/action movie they haven't seen before can do a lot worse.

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