Movie Review: ARQ (2016)
Director: Tony Elliott
Cast: Robbie Amell, Rachael Taylor, Shaun Benson
Synopsis: The inventor of a source of perpetual energy gradually discovers that he has inadvertently trapped himself in a time loop.
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Do you sometimes feel as though your life lacks variety? Is each day more or less a repeat of the day before? Well, spare a thought for Renton (Robbie Amell), the hero of Tony Elliott’s mind-bending SF thriller, ARQ; every morning, he awakes at 6:16am and follows a routine which, apart from a few minor details, is exactly the same as the day before. That’s because it is the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that. Renton has managed to trap himself in a time loop which lasts a little more than three hours, and which usually concludes with him being shot dead. Also trapped in this loop is his ex-girlfriend, Hannah (Rachael Taylor – The Darkest Hour), who is lying beside him on the bed when he awakes, and the three masked intruders who burst into his bedroom a few seconds later.
Renton lives in a dystopian future, a world ravaged by some unspecified disaster, in which power and apples are in short supply. But it’s not all bad news, because he has constructed a machine which provides a perpetual source of self-generating energy. Unfortunately, those three intruders are members of a rebel force struggling against the tyranny of the shadowy Torus organisation that has gotten wind of his invention and want it for their cause, but it is this machine which has created the time loop in which they are all trapped. However, Renton has an advantage over everyone else because, whereas they have no recollection of events from the previous loop, he awakens with a full recollection of what has gone before, and is therefore able to change its outcome through a process of trial and error in the hope of somehow breaking the cycle.
There’s little that writer-director Tony Elliott can do to disguise the low budget with which he’s working here. The bulk of ARQ is confined to four or five dimly lit sets that serve as the rooms of Renton’s home and lab, and its cast numbers no more than seven. Although the film feels a lot longer than its modest running time of 88 minutes, it’s structured in such a way that plot twists come thick and fast – with each fresh loop, in fact – and stakes are raised each time one of the other characters begins to retain their memories of the previous loop. As with all time travel movies, ARQ has a couple of plot holes, but they’re not exactly glaring, and could quite possibly be overlooked by most of its audience.
It’s watchable enough, but compares unfavourably to bigger movies, such as Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow, which explore similar ideas.
(Reviewed 29th September 2016)