J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Displacement: Time Travel and Family Issues

Time might be relative, but family is a cold, hard absolute for Cassie Sinclair. She is wracked with guilt for not fulfilling her mother’s dying wish, while bitterly resenting her father’s disappearing act. She might be able to partly rectify her past with the breakthrough time-travel equation she developed, but first she will have to extricate herself from the time loop someone created through their arrogant incompetence in Kenneth Mader’s Displacement (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

It was Sinclair who developed the equation, not her theoretical physicist father or her kindly faculty advisor, Peter Deckard. However, both men now want it, so they can find a negation point for the loop they are stuck in—or so they say. However, Sinclair does not want to end the repeating cycle until she can prevent her boyfriend Brian Chance’s fatal gunshot. Further complicating matters, she is periodically captured and interrogated by a shadowy cabal (yes, another one) that also wants the secret of time-travel for vaguely sketchy military applications.

Displacement is a bit slow out of the blocks, but once it starts looping back on itself, the energy and tension pick up considerably. Mader slyly choreographs the crisscrossing paths of the various Sinclairs from various times and he creates some highly credible sounding physics mumbo-jumbo. Displacement has few special effects of any sort, because it is driven by ideas, which is cool. However, it is still a bit pedestrian looking.

Courtney Hope convincingly portrays Sinclair as both wickedly smart and emotionally damaged. Sarah Douglas (the super-villainess Ursa in Superman II) is almost too good as the Dr. Miles, the mysterious co-conspirator trying to extract the equation from Sinclair. She is so poised and polished, she almost makes viewers switch their allegiance to the quasi-governmental faction. Veteran character actor Bruce Davison also inspires confidence as Prof. Deckard, but Hope’s chemistry with Christopher Backus’s Chance always feels forced and flat.

Displacement still can’t lay a glove on Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes, but its cerebral concern for molecular physics helps distinguish it from other recent time-travel movies. It is smart and ambitiously complicated in the right way. Recommended without reservation for time-travel fans, Displacement opens tomorrow (4/28) in LA, at the Laemmle Monica Film Center.

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