Science fiction is populated with tales that examine the impossible under the guise of making it possible, and in doing so has sometime inspired real life inventions that reshape the world we live in. One area that sci-fi has always had a keen interest in despite the fact that it’s practically all but impossible to realize is time travel. The concept of racing through the strands of time is appealing not just for the historical aspects of examining the past but because it’s a fantasy where you can reshape your future while altering the pain of the past. The new sci-fi film from director Diego Hallivis (though the film credits it as a Hallivis Brothers film, implying that Directors Guild of America rules prevented Julio Hallivis from being credited as co-director), Curvature, keeps its story of time travel very close to the present, utilizing the film’s central mystery to employ a structure closer to a thriller than a sci-fi film. Curvature has no shortage of ambition in its dense plotting and theories of time travel, but it suffers from a pacing issues exacerbated by the uneven script by Brian DeLeeuw. The film hints at some legit talent from its director(s) but the full realization of those talents lie in the future.
Helen Phillips (Lyndsy Fonseca) is an engineer in the midst of grief. Her husband Wells (Noah Bean), himself a brilliant engineer, has recently committed suicide, leaving Helen to ponder what drover her husband to take his own life while he was in the middle of researching some secretive and groundbreaking technology. One day, though, she awakes on the couch. Feeling somewhat out of sorts, the phone rings and gives her a dire warning. Almost like how Morpheus coached Neo over the phone in The Matrix, this mysterious stranger warns Helen of a determined agent (Alex Lanipekun) ready to break into her home and seize her for questioning. Suddenly, this grieving widow is now living a life on the run and enlists the help of her friend Alex (Zach Avery) to make sense of the secrets and lies that are finally starting to bubble over into a vast conspiracy.
It’d be unfair to reveal the many twists and turns that the Hallivis Brothers and Brian DeLeeuw cram into Curvature. During the first half when much of the film’s central mystery remains intact, Curvature is a lean thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat guessing along with the characters as improbable scenarios begin to play out. The initial chase that kickstarts the film’s plot is sturdily constructed and really mines quite a bit of tension out of limited resources. When Curvature gets into trouble is when it has to explain things, and you’ll find that much of the film’s second half are lengthy explanations of dense, complex concepts. The reveals never work as well as the mystery and the result is a rather ho-hum second half, a half that’s not quite terrible but never particularly good.
For the most part Curvature is well-acted with its relatively unknown cast. Lyndsy Fonseca headlines the film and brings a balance of brilliant determination and heavy heart of sorrow to the lead the character who is often bewildered by the events of the film. The one weak spot in the cast is Zach Avery who often is tasked with dense expository dialogue that even a seasoned veteran couldn’t liven up. Terminator’s Linda Hamilton makes an appearance as a mentor to Lyndsy Fonseca’s Helen. Veteran character actor Glenn Morshower gets a fun role as Wells’ partner Tomas, one that has plenty of moral shadiness to flavor the film.
Curvature is a sci-fi film with ambition that far exceeds its grasp. It’s mostly entertaining but can’t find a consistency to its mysterious take on time travel. But the film did pique my interest into seeing what the Hallivis Brothers do next. With limited budgetary resources, Diego and Julio Hallivis create some sharply crafted moments, utilizing the most of the frame and employing skill to create tension. And yet their talents are underserved by a screenplay that is burdened with too much to explain, slowing down the tension and the action for drawn out scenes of technical jargon. Curvature is an uneven piece of storytelling with moments that really pop, but it’s an overly complex concept in need of some simplification if only for the way its complexity weighs down the dialogue.