Droid defines the decades best movies – #21 Frequency (2000)
I’ve had to make room for a couple of recently seen movies that have shoulder barged their way into my Top 20. And since I’ve already toiled away at a few reviews, I’ve now expanded this list to 21. Can’t let my talent go to waste now can I? So with out further ado, here is the first entry in my epic journey through a ton of absolute shit to find the best movies of the decade. Enjoy.
I love time travel movies. ‘Back to the Future’ is my favourite movie of all time. I love them beyond all sense and reason. They are usually bunk filled nonsense, but when done even remotely well, they are very entertaining and loads of fun. I don’t know if I’d call ‘Frequency’ a time travel movie per se, because there’s no actual travelling between time periods, but it does play with time and the effect that changing the past can have on the future. Or present. Whatever. It’s similar to ‘The Butterfly Effect’ (which was made after this), except that it’s not shite and it doesn’t have an annoying twat in the lead.
It’s 1969 and hero firefighter Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid) is living the life. He’s got a wife and kid that adore him, he’s outrunning fireballs for a living, cruising around on his hog, and watching his beloved New York Mets in the World Series. In 1999, detective John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) is a bit of a loser. He likes the sauce a bit too much, his long-suffering girlfriend’s just walked out and he presumably doesn’t have a penis because he’s unable to program a VCR. See it seems John never got over the day his old man tried to outrun one fireball too many and got cindered in a warehouse fire.
When his friend Gordo (Noah Emmerich) lets his kid (a very young Michael Cera) rifle through old Franks stuff, he comes across his ham radio (and a nicely set up shotgun; Show it to the camera, please. Remember it, okay? It just might come back again later). Showing inexplicable interest in the radio, the kid demands it be set up. Not that anyone uses that technology anymore, except for Candy Cane of course. Due to some sort of sun spot/aurora borealis gobbledegook in both time periods, the voice on the other end of the line is indeed John’s dad Frank. No, it’s not zombie Frank Sullivan. It’s the real one! In 1969! John manages to warn Frank about the warehouse fire, which saves his life and alters the timeline in more ways than one. In this alternate timeline, a killer called ‘The Nightingale’ didn’t die (the wife is a nurse and saved him from OD’ing), and has continued to claim victims, including Julie Sullivan, beloved wife and mother and the killers saviour! The father and son race against time (the ‘sun spots’ could disappear at any time) to find the killer and save her life. Or return history to it’s former self, except keeping the part where Frank’s alive. Or alter history so that she’s not dead, Franks alive and the killers dead. Or whatever.
‘Frequency is by no means a flawless movie. It can get a bit sentimental (particularly the very treacly ending), and its plot is chock full of holes. It’s nonsense of the highest order. There are quiet a few odd choices in this movie that I could use to pick this movie to pieces with (the fact that the wood on the table smokes in 1999, when Frank burns it in 1969, for one). But the whole thing is so much fun that I really don’t care. You either go with it, or you don’t. I did.
This, for an outsider, feels like as American a film as you can get. It’s set in New York, the heroes are firemen and cops, baseball is all anyone seems to do in their spare time, there’s rock n’ roll on the radio, and the central theme is that quintessential American obsession, reconciling with your pop. What is it about fathers and sons bonding over baseball that gets the Yanks in such a tizzy? Three films immediately spring to mind that deal with this phenomenon. This, ‘City Slickers’ and ‘Field of Dreams’. And that’s just off the top off my head. It’s strange, but hey, I like all three of those moves so maybe it gets me in a tizzy too.
At one stage during the development of ‘Frequency’, Renny Harlin was set to direct and Sylvester Stallone was to star, in what would’ve been a completely different movie (double the budget apparently). Now I like Renny and Sly as much as the next guy, but not for this. Imagine young John getting on the line and hearing Sly croaking back at him?
Once he tones down the Noo Yawk accent a bit, Mr. Reliable Dennis Quaid is his usual self, playing the confident, tough, and determined character that he has perfected over the years (and mostly only seems to play now). Jim Caviezel puts in a good performance as the cry-baby boozehound and Shawn Doyle as ‘The Nightingale’ is suitably creepy, if a bit underdeveloped.
Gregory Hoblit, who directed the great ‘Primal Fear’, wisely accelerates past trying to explain the ridiculous nature of the plot, and instead expects you to accept it. This is a wise choice. Getting too bogged down in explanations in a time travel movie will ruin any suspension of disbelief we are willing to muster. These two can talk thanks to the sun spot or whatever it is. Who cares? On with the show.
I strongly doubt that this would get anywhere near most peoples ‘Best of’ list, but I don’t care. It’s my list. Go make your own. I love it. If you can look past the flaws and go with it, there’s a lot of fun to be had with ‘Frequency’. If not, you’re a cold-hearted bastard with no imagination. Or something like that.