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Frequency
2000 - PG-13 - 118 Mins.
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Producer: Bill Carraro, Howard W. \\\\
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Shawn Doyle, Elizabeth Mitchell, Noah Emmerich
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Can you imagine being able to talk to a dead loved one? What would you say, how would you react? And what if you knew how, when and where they died, and could warn them of their forecoming doom?

The questions are answered in Gregory Hoblit's "Frequency," in which a young man speaks to his father thirty years into the past. The story starts with Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid), a veteran firefighter who dies in a factory fire in October, 1969. Exactly thirty years later, in 1999, his thirty-six-year-old son John (Jim Caviezel) has become a police officer, breaking a tradition of all firefighters on his father's side.

One night as John is rummaging through a compartment under his stairs (he occupies the same house he grew up in), he comes across his dad's old ham radio. Out of morbid curiosity he sets it up and, eventually, manages to make it work. He clicks it on and a static voice comes across on the other end, asking John to identify himself. In the minutes that pass, John realizes he is speaking to his father on the exact same night, thirty years earlier (or thirty years later, depending on whose perspective you are taking into account).

The excuse for this wonderous ability of time communication is really quite nonsense - it has to do with a solar frequency in outer space that happens to be encompassing the sky in both 1969 and 1999 - but we instantly connect with the plot. The characters seem real enough, and sometimes that is all that counts. Recalling the plot of this film on my computer makes it seem just a bit more hokey than it was when you watch it. And that's probably the sign of a good director - one who can make skeptical audiences actually believe his ludicrous plot.

Through talking to his father, John is able to warn him of his death. Frank does avoid dying, but this sets off a chain event. By not dying, Frank's wife, and John's mother, who is a nurse in 1969 and 1999, was never told of her husband's death in 1969 (because he didn't die in this alternate timeline.) Therefore she never left the hospital that October night to grieve over her husband's death, and because of this, a serial killer known as the Nightingale Strangler (or something like that) ends up killing John's mother on her routine way home from the hospital, along with six other victims who were not killed in the "original" 1999.

But in the current 1999, John now has all the case files of the murders, since he is a cop and has access to them, and that means he knows when and where the Nightingale Strangler will attack. So 1969 Frank starts a case of detective, scoping out the joints on the night the killer murders his victims. Frank manages to grab some fingerprints of the anonymous killer, and in a very inventive plot twist, sticks the fingerprint evidence in a bag, hides it in his house, and tells John where he hid it. John goes looking in the 1999 house, and finds the evidence, right where Frank left it hidden in 1969.

A lot of the timeline theories in "Frequency" don't hold up. The movie reminds me of "Back to the Future" quite a bit, except the latter's plot makes theoretical sense and the former's does not. Take, for example, a scene where Frank, in the past, carves the words I'M STILL HERE, CHIEF into a table with a motor mechanism. John, in 1999, sees the words being carved as it happens in the past. Smoke comes out of the table as it happens and everything. But in reality, Frank would have done it thirty years ago, meaning that the table would have the words carved into it long before John sees them being carved invisibly. It's like in "BttF Part II" - when Biff gets his hands on that sports almanac, everything in the future suddenly changes. It doesn't start happening as Biff does it in real time. Confused? Me too.

Also, when Frank survives his destined death because of John's warning words, John suddenly gets new memories. Since his father never died, he now gets all these memories of them together after his (Frank's) death from the original 1969. He says to Frank later that night that now he has two streams of memories - those of Frank's death and afterwards, and those of Frank living and afterwards. But somehow, everyone else does not remember Frank's death - only John. Why? Simple: There wouldn't be an interesting film without it.

"Frequency" has almost as much thought put into its time changing as "BttF," but lacks the hard conviction that the "Future" movies had. They made sense, had little plot holes - or at least plot holes that could be analyzed. "Frequency" has a lot of plot holes that simply cannot be analyzed. They're just there.

But this movie has some major highlights. A battle between a serial killer in 1969 and 1999 is visually and psychologically thrilling, and very ironic in execution; moments like the fingerprint evidence being hidden, though a bit shallow, are fun - and the characters and actors are superb. This might not be as deep as "Back to the Future," but I found myself lost in this film, never checking my watch for its one hour fifty minute + running time. And that's a pretty rare thing these days.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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