ARQ, the new original movie from OTT service Netflix, is woefully standard. Not only is it woefully standard, but it is a blatant premise ripoff of the criminally under-seen Edge of Tomorrow. Renton (Robbie Amell), or, as he is affectionately referred to by his compatriot Hannah (Rachael Taylor), Ren, finds himself stuck in a time loop paradox in which the same infiltration of his hidden compound occurs over and over again.
The world of ARQ is the typical post-apocalyptic science fiction: savages and raiders rule, food is a scarce resource, random technological innovations litter the screen. This said, the world of ARQ is not fleshed out. Instead, the narrative decides to drop us in medias res, with Ren waking up to the “family” of mercenaries rushing in to return what Ren stole from them.
There is nothing wrong with beginning an action narrative without much explanation of the world itself. But the film must establish something before beginning the narrative in earnest. We learn very little about the characters, save for that they have a past and are considered criminals in certain powerful circles.
We learn more as the narrative unfolds, but it is hardly a capable thread when there is no sympathy or intrigue established for the protagonist. Ignoring its resemblance to the far superior Edge of Tomorrow, the time loop angle does produce interesting wrinkles as it progresses, but the lack of character and world building is heavily detrimental.
Visually, the film is an overly dark, overly sparse space. The contained setting makes for neither claustrophobia nor imagination. The mise-on-scene, as previously described, is sci-fi for sci-fis sake. The repetition yields different camera perspectives that are somewhat compelling but never enough to supersede the lackluster narrative.
ARQ is a throwaway science fiction thriller. An uninspired narrative grinds the close-quarters action to a halt, leaving each iteration of the time loop less inviting than the last. Ignoring massive plot holes and inconsistencies, the film is not intelligent enough to stack up to the great time travel narratives of film, like Upstream Color. Given the cinematic value does not make up for this lacking script, there is little to grasp on to here.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)