Netflix Originals presents ‘ARQ’: If at first you don’t – If at first you – If at first – If at first you don’t succ – Damnit!

arq-poster-small

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Tony Elliot

Studio: XYZ Films

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

In a post-apocalyptic world where everything is in short supply and the evil corporation Torus is taking over everything, two survivors find themselves locked in a holding pattern of time when the new ARQ power generator malfunctions.

Like other Groundhog Day films, Renton (Robbie Amell) finds himself in the unenviable position of death-wake-repeat, and while the rest of the film is a kind of piecemeal slow burn, at least as far as WTF happened to the outside world, the death cycle mostly stays the same. That in itself, once Renton discovers it, is a real cause for alarm anyways.

Hannah (Rachael Taylor) was with Ren out in the world and something happened and they got separated, but Hannah managed to come back and find Ren, and about here is where we find ourselves. Wake to the sounds of home invasion from masked men who insist on calling themselves familial names: they want cash and scripts (I never did figure out the difference) and whatever else of value Renton has. The bandits seem in particular awe of the fact that Ren has real actual apples; it never seems to occur to any of them to ask how he managed that in this bleak new world. So Ren and Hannah are tied up and threatened with violence unless they cooperate, but the home invaders are acting oddly suspicious about certain things. Inevitably stuff goes sideways annnnd the next thing we know, Renton is jerking upright in bed. This is why time travel gives us nosebleeds.

The ripples and circles of the plot are clever, painstakingly maintained, and if I say too much more, I’m just giving away the rather fine plot. The sets are sparse, special effects almost nil, and for all that, a very good little gem of a film, because things center around the story. Time travel stories especially, have to be very careful in how they lay out their plot and all those little “Gotcha!” moments, because modern rather jaded sci-fi fans these days are real sticklers for stuff like that.

For fans of excellent films like Primer, Netflix’s ARQ is worth multiple looks, if nothing else to catch that tenth time-loop “Gotcha!”

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