Time travel seems to be the hot thing at the moment. This fall alone, two time-travel dramas, “Timeless” on NBC, and the CW’s “Frequency” debuted on network television.
But it was Netflix who got the ball rolling first in September with their original movie, “ARQ.” And after two months of it sitting in my playlist, I decided to finally watch it.
The film opens with one of our main characters, Renton (Robbie Amell) and his ex or current girlfriend, Hannah (Rachael Taylor) getting a harsh wake-up call from a gang of gun-toting robbers in gas masks. While trying to escape, Renton falls down a flight of stairs and… wakes up back in the same bed with Hannah.
Then, just like before, the same guys with guns show up again, only this time he’s prepared and tries to fight back. This time, his escape attempt ends with Renton getting shot and… waking up in the same bed again, just before the home invaders arrive again.
What the heck is causing this day to loop? It turns out that Renton is the inventor of a machine he calls the ARQ, which Hannah describes at one point as “an unlimited energy machine that also produces unlimited time.” The machine looks like it was built for a sixth grade science fair, and even though he doesn’t want it to get into the wrong hands, Renton keeps it in the garage. Because you know, that’s where you keep stuff like this.
Renton believes the bad guys want the ARQ for their war machine, but we never get to learn much about this war, even though it’s mentioned repeatedly during the film. One of the baddies is super-psyched that Renton has apples in his house, because I guess this is a world without apples. But again, we never really get many answers about the war.
Anywho, Renton has to keep his machine safe, fight off would be robbers, and try to figure out why the loop is happening. But because this is a movie and it needs more drama, every time he wakes up, he learns that the people around him are not who they appear to be.
I thought “ARQ” borrowed a lot from 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” but that movie was as close to perfect as you can get in the sci-fi genre. “ARQ” looks and feels cheap, especially for a Netflix original. The movie also has little humor and almost no action compared to Edge. And of course, there is no Emily Blunt to drool at in “ARQ.”
But this movie does have a few moments that are rather good. Writer-director Tony Elliott did a pretty good job in pacing the story by introducing new elements in each loop and planting small details that are important later on. So the film keeps you guessing the whole time, which is nice.
If you like sci-fi movies packed with twists every 15 minutes, then “ARQ” will be the perfect movie for you. However, if you prefer your that your sci-fi movies have big budgets and incredible action sequences, then “ARQ” is probably not what you are looking for.
“ARQ” final score: 6