ARQ, directed by Tony Elliott, is a contained sci-fi film with a concept that is certainly not new, but it does deliver a situation and some characters that keep the momentum and your engagement from slipping. With a short runtime (90 minutes) and a clear and interesting endgame, I was fully on board with seeing how this sci-fi story would play out. So let’s jump into the review and see if this is just actually another overdone, high-concept sci-fi film, or perhaps something worth your time.
The story in ‘ARQ’ is a little complicated to layout, primarily because I don’t want to step on any spoilers, as that would severely harm the experience of watching the film. So let’s try to do this as best and as simply as possible: Set far in the future, Renton – played by Robbie Amell – has built a machine that can continually produce power (or so he thinks). But when he and his girlfriend, Hannah – played by Rachael Taylor – are attacked by burglars looking for money, they all soon realise that the device somehow has them all trapped in a continuous time-loop. However, what starts off as continuous attempts to foil the intruders, turns into something much more complicated.
Groundhog Day like films are nothing new; there are multiple films, TV shows and even books that have tackled the concept of a repeating time-loop that a group of characters must try to escape. These various attempts usually live-or-die on how clever and continually engaging they can be. So I’m glad to say that ‘ARQ’ is one of the ones that lives and delivers a solid entry into what is now a commonly tackled plot.
But I want to get specific (this review would be pretty pointless if I didn’t) so I want to start off with the thing that worked best for me in the film, and that was how it always kept me interested and guessing as to what the next stage in the story would be. When you have a story where things are always looping, you inevitably have to change one or two things as it progresses. These changes can be small or they can be story altering, but they have to occur. ‘ARQ’ does a really good job of this, almost every time the loop would reset, there was a change in how things played out which meant there weren’t long periods of time where you were watching the exact same scene happen. It also kept introducing new elements to the story; elements that would fundamentally change how you perceived something or someone. This kept me on my toes and paying attention, as with such slight alterations (that in the confines of the story were massive) I was always trying to work the puzzle out in my mind – how would it effect the next loop, how will this character act the next time etc. I never lost interest, which for a film like this is integral to your experience.
With the confined nature of the film however, I did feel a lack of decent exploration of the world that the film took place in; I understand that budgetary constraints probably played into that factor, but I still would have liked to have seen or known more about this dystopian future that the characters survive in – beyond just passing comments in the middle of sci-fi jargon filled scenes.
The other part to a film like this that is really important is the characters. I feel for the most part, I was happy with what I got. ‘ARQ’ did a good job of developing Renton (Robbie Amell) and Hannah (Rachael Taylor) over the course of the film, and it also did a good job in laying out the troubled relationship between the two of them. There were one or two occasions where a certain talking point that was integral to their story was approached in a very roundabout way; they would argue about the same thing but never progress anywhere with it. Outside of their relationship development, I did feel there were some heavy-handed attempts to inject a bigger story for one of the characters in particular, and this resulted in an outcome that felt out-of-place and overly forced. Thankfully it didn’t mar the overall experience, but it did shine a spotlight on itself as being pretty unnecessary.
Beyond the two main characters, we aren’t given much to work with when the intruders are concerned. Perhaps the only one who offers something of note is the character, Sonny – played by Shaun Benson – who has a really impactful stamp on the overall story; which is also helped by the fact that actor Shaun Benson delivers a menacing antagonist for the leads to face off against.
Overall I feel that ‘ARQ’ succeeds at what it tries to do; with its confined location, its interesting plot, and its characters that play well into the overall story, I ultimately found myself always engaged with the film. I perhaps could have done with less of the techno-babble and the ending could have been less ambiguous, but when the credits rolled, I was happy with the 90 minutes I had just spent with ‘ARQ’.
So I will be recommending ‘ARQ’. A fun, intriguing sci-fi film that despite its lack of originality, doesn’t feel stale or predictable; this is one that is certainly worth watching when you have a night free.
Are you interested in ARQ and its concept? Let me know in the comments down below. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date on my other reviews, may I suggest either following this blog directly, or following me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you so much for reading this or any other of reviews, it means so much to me… genuinely!