An intriguing exploration of fate vs. circumstance and coincidence that ends up being far better than it should be, but only if it’s not taken too seriously.
Whether or not you believe in kismet or mere coincidence, the dramatic thriller 2:22 from Australian filmmaker Paul Currie – directing his first movie since 2004’s One Perfect Day – is one of at least three movies this year that loosely plays upon the idea of history repeating itself, previously explored (to comic effect) in films like Edge of Tomorrow and Groundhog’s Day.
The timestamp in the title is when all sorts of strange things keep happening around New York-based air-traffic controller Dylan Branson, played by Dutch actor Michiel Huisman (‘Game of Thrones’). As he tells us via voiceover, he’s someone who sees patterns in everyday routines, something that distracts him from his job to the point where he narrowly avoids an airplane collision, getting him suspended for a month. As he attends the ballet on his break, Dylan meets Sarah (Teresa Palmer), who just happens to have been a passenger on one of the planes that nearly crashed. As they become closer, they also learn they share the exact same birthdate, each of them turning thirty in a week.
After Dylan and Sarah’s chance meeting, the movie could have easily turned into a cutesy romantic drama. Instead, it becomes more intriguing as Dylan discovers more coincidences connecting all the things taking place around him. He keeps winding up at Grand Central Station at 2:22 pm just as odd occurrences happen there, before learning of a double murder in the train station that took place on the very date both of them were born. From there, the film comfortably settles into the direction of a mystery crime-thriller.
Written by Todd Stein and Nathan Parker (Moon), the screenplay once garnered studio interest before Currie came onboard to direct. It’s not surprising to see why, because it has elements that could easily have been turned into a far larger-budgeted film.
It’ll be easy for the more cynically minded to entirely write this film off for subscribing and pandering to hippy-dippy theories about ‘fate’, although maybe it’s the type of movie that shouldn’t be taken too seriously or literally, even if it never deliberately goes for laughs.
The fact is that there are many people like Dylan who see patterns in everything, and it’s easier to mock or write off their superstitions than to explore them. Even so, it’s not particularly credible for so many things to happen in Grand Central at the exact same time without someone who works there figuring out the pattern.
Huisman is certainly quite a dashing actor, even if somewhat lacking in the charm and charisma departments, yet he’s still sufficient enough to keep you invested in Dylan’s journey, carrying the movie effortlessly. Once again, Palmer proves herself to be an actor with more dramatic chops than she’s often allowed to show, one of the hindrances of being such an attractive woman, perhaps?
Otherwise, the people around Dylan and Sarah are exceedingly annoying New York stereotypes, a blame to be shared between the film’s screenwriters and the lesser actors in those roles. This includes Sam Reid (Belle) as Sarah’s artist ex-boyfriend Jonas, who is about as pretentious as one can imagine, to the point it’s hard not to fall over laughing as you witness his “very serious” hologram light art exhibit, which just happens to cover similar ground as Dylan’s research.
Sadly, this unintentionally hysterical moment also ends up being the catalyst for the film’s second half, which means we end up seeing far more of Reid’s character than anyone might want to. The revelation of seeing Jonas’ light exhibit sends Dylan towards the film’s inevitable resolution and a climactic ending that actually feels quite satisfying.
Having been one of the producers of Mel Gibson’s Oscar-nominated war drama Hacksaw Ridge, Currie proves himself to be a capable filmmaker himself, at least in terms of creating a slick film with solid production values and an effective use of his music budget. Part of that comes from the film’s locations, including many scenes shot within Grand Central Terminal…or at least a very accurate facsimile.
2:22 may not be the best example of this type of genre, yet it’s still a film that should appeal to those who enjoyed the silliness of the science-fiction concepts explored in the Bradley Cooper film Limitless, or even Luc Besson’s Lucy. It’s also a better film than the staggeringly similar 2009 Nicolas Cage film Knowing. That was also directed by an Australian filmmaker and co-starred an Australian actress…but that’s almost definitely a coincidence.