Muddled 95ERS A Time Travel Yarn With Too Much (Family) Thread
Apr 8, 2014
Like so many viewers, time travel fascinates me … so I’m naturally drawn to science fiction films that explore similar themes. There have been many, many great ones over the years; and – to be honest – even the average space age thriller can achieve more than a few nice moments in exploring man’s attempt to either alter the past or salvage the future. One of my personal favorite time travel films remains Nicholas Meyer’s TIME AFTER TIME (1979), and what’s genius about it to me even after all of this time is the balance that script managed between its modest sci-fi elements and believable, interesting characters. See – and this is the tipping point for every film – if we like the characters, then we’re liable to give the flick an honest pass on taking the affordable way out … and that’s possibly what might save 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS from its own extermination.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
A few decades beyond today, mankind teeters on extinction from waging wars that have left our planet largely destroyed. Our last best hope lies in the hands of those who’ve been trained to use time machines in order to change the past in order to revise our future. But the work of present-day (and pregnant!) FBI agent Sally Biggs (played with middling conviction at best by Alesandra Durham) is interfering with these future warriors attempts to ‘right’ the timeline. She’s using the resources of the federal government to probe the mysterious death of her physicist husband. Could it be that she’s inadvertently tapped into an alternate reality that’s causing mankind’s demise … or is this just part and parcel of being pregnant?
I kid. Seriously, I kid. But that’s the problem I tend to have with independent features that take themselves vastly too seriously, and you can certainly chalk 95ERS into that category. All of it is approached with a level of seriousness not necessarily simpatico with the nature of the production – there’s nothing wrong with being a low budget sci-fi thriller, so embrace it, people.
Written and directed by Thomas Gomez Durham (I’m guessing this might be nepotism, too!), 95ERS tries to do a whole lot of things on a budget built for a summer tent-pole feature but without any of the frills. For example, not only is Sally Biggs an FBI Agent, but she’s also pregnant … and, not only is she pregnant, but her physicist/husband disappeared under curious circumstances … and not only did her physicist/husband disappear under curious circumstances but also he (and she) may be directed tied into these time wars of the future … and not only might the two of them be tied into these time wars of the future but also their unborn son might also be tied into it as well.
Oh, yeah, and did I mention Sally has the ability to manipulate time in the present?
It’s overkill – never a good thing – and it’s the kind of overkill one might expect, say, if you were casting some big budget actress (Angelina Jolie or a Julia Roberts or even a Meryl Streep) … only they probably wouldn’t be drawn to the material. Essentially, Ms. Biggs is a modern day mutant, only this isn’t going to be a story told with the stylish presentation befitting a modern day mutant; this will be done ‘on the cheap.’ That, and the story told won’t quite tie itself up with the same ease and grace normally befitting those silver screen tales based on comic books, so the mission and the narration all feels more than a bit muddled. In fact, I have to admit that I’m not all that convinced all of this tied up the way one might expect a time travel yarn to do; suffice it to say it ends with a bit of a promise for more … but would anyone show up?
Maybe if their surname was Durham. This was clearly a family affair – not that there’s anything wrong with it – but, at some point, maybe an outside voice would’ve been helpful if for no other reason than to point out the film lacked any organic flow to it.
95ERS: TIME RUNNERS is produced by Space Ace Media. DVD distribution is being handled by Inception Media Group. As for the technical specifications, this is an independent feature that serves up some quality sights and sounds, though I’ll point out that the mike work left a bit to be desired in a few sequences. Also – as tends to happen when these small releases require some high quality CGI effects sequences – there’s a noticeable difference between the visual qualities between stuff shot with human characters versus the high-tech computer-generated spacecraft; it’s occasionally jarring but not all that of a distraction. Lastly, if it’s special features you want, then you’ve a bit in store: there’s an audio commentary from the director and his star (both with last names Durham) along with some additional scenes.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. As a low budget thrillers, 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS is far from perfect. As an indie science fiction feature, it may squeeze a bit closer to comfortable territory, but I’m once more inclined to chalk this up as yet one more example of what happens when relative newcomers write and direct their own work – unfortunately, they’re simply too close to the material to detect the weaknesses inherent in the script as well as the execution. I’ve no doubt when – twenty years from now – someone decides to pick this up and remake it it’ll likely end up being a more balanced picture, but this one has plenty of narrative flaws.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Inception Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review, and it in no way, shape, or form influenced this opinion of it.