In a film very reminiscent of The Edge of Tomorrow in terms of it’s themes, we meet Renton (Robbie Amell) and Hannah (Rachael Taylor) as they try to repel a group of unknown attackers. They have no idea why they are being attacked. The unfortunate thing is that this scenario repeats over and over again, initially as Renton is killed, resetting to the exact same time, 6:16am.
With each cycle we learn something more, something new. About the attackers and also about Renton and Hannah. What we don’t learn too much about is the situation that they are in, very little about the world outside, very little about the two opposing sides of an ongoing war, about the air not being breathable. Whilst the piece-by-piece information drip feed is welcome, not knowing more about the gravity of the situation means that you end up not caring too much about the outcome of this attack.
What does transpire quite quickly is that a device that Renton is running, the ARQ which is supposedly a generator of endless power, has a byproduct of causing a time loop for those in the near vicinity. Lasting only a couple of hours before resetting, the ARQ has left the inhabitants of this small house/makeshift lab trapped in a never ending hell of which they aren’t all aware of. Renton is the first to remember the previous time loop and goes about trying to change things for the better by himself. Slowly, more and more of the people trapped in the house realise that they too are trapped and repeating the same time fragment over and over, first with Hannah, then with the attackers.
What ARQ does well is to keep the scope narrow to keep the tension fairly high. The small house gives not much option for hiding or escaping, few things that can be changed at any one time, but ARQ doesn’t do things incrementally as Edge of Tomorrow does. It takes small leaps into new areas instead of building on the same timeline over and over again.
We also have a quandary as to who is on who’s side. Is Rachel friendly or is she working for them? Who is Renton working for and whose side are the attackers on? There are a few twists that are revealed slowly as the loops go on and more and more of the trapped remember the previous loop and this alters the direction that the film goes in, which is a nice touch.
I don’t want to spoil the ending but it does end with a reveal which is pretty good, but if we were privy to a bit more of this kind of information during the film it would have lead to a greater feeling of tension and seriousness, rather than not having a complete grasp of the situation as it tried to build towards the finale.
ARQ is a decent film exploring the time-loop idea, using the uncertainty of not knowing who is on who’s side really well and developing the characters knowledge with each loop. It just falls a little bit short on getting the message and severity of the situation, and therefore the importance of the ARQ device, across, meaning you don’t worry as much about the outcome as maybe you should.
Rachael Taylor is great in this, putting in a really good performance as Hannah, growing into the role as the film develops.