TIME travel movies don’t get much better than this – a compelling study of grief, hope and redemption in which cornball sentiment and dark, unsettling drama each combine with the other to create a genuinely unique motion picture experience.
New York cop John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel, seen to fine effect in The Thin Red Line) mourns his father, Frank (Dennis Quaid), a heroic firefighter who perished in a factory blaze 30 years before.
Living in the house which was his home as a child, John discovers his father’s old ham radio, and sets it up. As the northern lights dance across the sky above his home, the radio crackles into life. As John speaks, he is picked up by a man who calls himself Frank, who has a seven-year-old son named John, and who appears to be monitoring a baseball game.
Yet as John and the stranger speak, it becomes clear that Frank is actually Frank Sullivan, and the child he refers to is the man he is talking to. What’s more, the game for which the result is just minutes away took place, inexplicably, three decades before – in the World Series of 1969.
As shocks turns to incredulity and then to acceptance, both men realise they are talking to each other across time – 30 years, to be precise. Then John realises that the thirtieth anniversary of Frank’s death is just a few days away. If he can warn him, he can change the course of time, prevent his death and enjoy the father-son relationship he has always yearned for.
What begins as a quirky time-travel heart-warmer slowly, under the assured direction of Gregory (Fallen) Hoblit, becomes something far more sinister. After overcoming the collective audience’s initial suspension of disbelief – that a man can talk to his long-dead father over an antique radio and change the course of time – Frequency eases into an intelligent and intense tale which is part detective story, part serial killer thriller and part Twilight Zone chiller.
In essence, John’s tampering with time has catastrophic consequences. In saving the life of his father he fundamentally alters the course of the last 30 years, begins to unravel a long-forgotten crime and inadvertently is responsible for the death of another close relative.
Director Hoblit, who made his film debut with Primal Fear, is not afraid of inviting his audience to lose themselves in a preposterous story, which is what Frequency plainly is. Yet it has a fundamental truth about it which affects all of us – if we could alter time to change an event in our life, what would it be?
Both Dennis Quaid, as the dead man resurrected to solve the ancient crime, and Jim Caviezel, are superb. Quaid hasn’t had anything this good for a long time, and proves both his versatility and star quality, while Caviezel emerges as ‘The One to Watch’ with a performance of great sensitivity.
This hugely inventive thriller, with its convoluted plot which jumps between one era and another, is yet another triumph for Gregory Hoblit. Much of the credit must go to Toby Emmerich’s script, which never once threatens to come apart at the seams and instead covers all angles perfectly.
Taut, thought-provoking and incredibly well-written, Frequency is a film to see again and again – just to catch what you missed the first time.