Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd August 2012
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Skyscraper Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 77 Rotten: 26
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Producer: Brit Marling, Hans C. Ritter, Shelley Surpin
Screenwriter: Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij
Peter and Lorna (Denham and Vicius) head off to a top-secret location where they are initiated into a cult led by Maggie (Marling), who claims to have travelled back from the year 2054. But Peter and Lorna have a secret: they're collecting material to debunk Maggie and her followers as a nutty apocalyptic cult. Then Maggie starts getting under their skin, as the cynical Peter finds himself wondering about the impact of his painful childhood and the addictive Lorna gets sucked in deeper than she expects.
Director Batmanglij shoots and edits like it's a lo-fi science fiction movie, with white walls and hospital gowns (to protect the Maggie's depleted immune system). The secret gatherings are in an over-lit windowless basement complete with a greenhouse to produce Maggie's food. Then one of Maggie's followers produces a pistol. And Maggie asks Peter to bring her a young girl (Pohl). And there's also a mysterious woman (McFadden) who seems to be on everyone's trail.
All of these things raise big issues that the filmmakers seem unable, or perhaps unwilling, to explore. Issues of child abuse echo loudly around the edges, implying the source of the characters' steel-edged fragility, but this idea is only ever used to make us question each person's motivation, not to drive the story forward. And while the time-travel subject matter has plenty of in-built intrigue, at least the filmmakers keep it alluringly out of reach as a plot point.
All of this gives director Batmanglij plenty to tease us with, as the connections between various characters twist and turn right to the abrupt final scene. The cast is terrific at layering in tiny quirks that maintain our scepticism, with Denham and Vicius especially effective at playing people who aren't quite sure who their partner is. Or who they are themselves. Opposite them, Marling comes across rather condescending and creepy, but then that's what gives the whole film a necessary jolt of uncomfortable energy.