Review by Csillag
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Rating: Victory Star Destroyer
I didn't make it to the theater to see this movie when it came out, but I did catch it on TV recently. I'm sorry now that I didn't see it in the theater. It is a really good story!
A rare atmospheric phenomenon, an unusually strong solar flare, causes the Aurora Borealis which is the physical representation of the earth's magnetic field to be visible much further south than it normally is. It also causes a shortwave radio signal to be bounced back through time. A young New York City police detective, who is dealing with some difficult personal issues, comes across his father's old ham radio equipment. To his surprise, when he turns the equipment on it still works. He starts talking with a man who turns out to be his own father, a New York City firefighter who died on the job 30 years before.
The man doesn't believe him at first, but eventually comes around when his son accurately predicts events he can verify. The son warns him that he will die in a fire, but that he can avoid that fate if he makes a different choice to get out of the burning building. The father does survive and history changes, but the son still has both sets of memories. This one change precipitates other events that have tragic and dangerous consequences for both the father and son, but as they continue to communicate across time, each consequence including a serial murderer's historic spree is eventually changed and history is modified.
Note that the idea of communication through time is esentially the same as traveling through time ... it's not probable because the physics which affects them is the same. It doesn't stop anyone from trying to create a more believable scenario, and there have been some excellent ways to communicate with the dead: Marty McFly's photograph of him and his siblings changes as the past looks like it's changing to his detriment in Back to the Futre, and Tom Riddle's diary communicates with Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter in Chamber of Secrets. Frequency is every bit as believable.
Time travel has always been a bugaboo of science fiction books and films. Sometimes it is done brilliantly; other times it makes one cringe. This film got it right. The people themselves did not actually travel through time, but a radio signal does. That seems more much more believable (granting that you do have to suspend disbelief for the duration of the movie). Seeing things like the cigarette burn on the desk in the past suddenly start to appear in the present and the message the father burns into the desk top with a soldering iron appear letter by letter as the son watches 30 years later really sells the cross-time communication.
Dennis Quaid as the father is great. He is the quintessential hero to his son because he is always there for the boy until he had died in the fire. The son becomes somewhat of a lost soul bereft of his father's love and guidance. Reforming their connection through time causes both of them many difficulties, but the way they work through it all is believable and heart warming.
The premise of the film is science fiction wrapped around a murder mystery, and it is a very human story and very well done. I will be adding this one to my video collection and watching it again and again.
Movie poster image from www.imdb.com
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