A time-loop is an interesting narrative device that provides filmmakers the opportunity to explore their ideas. It gives certain flexibility to the narrative that can be used to manipulate the diegetic time-flow of the film. However, we have a protagonist in such films who, more often than not, is the narrator. Through the character’s perspective, we navigate across the story, which sometimes does get complicated. The science-fiction aspect can be explored in a didactic approach (‘Interstellar,’ ‘Primer’) or through a comparatively simpler exposition (‘Groundhog Day,’ ‘Happy Death Day’).
‘Boss Level’ is an action thriller with a time-loop narrative derived straight from the video games where we can resurrect our characters even if we fail to finish a particular level. The film has some comic elements in the way it approaches the story, making it an interesting watch. But there are certain moments, that we should try to understand, in its narrative. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Boss Level Plot Synopsis
Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) is an ex-special forces soldier caught in a time loop where a team of assassins hunts him down. He has already lived through the temporal dissonance 140 times and seems to have a hang of the exact situations when the killers come to attack him. He wakes up as a machete-wielding assassin tries to attack him, followed by a gunner aboard a helicopter trying to shoot him down.
Even if he escapes these attacks, a pair of women follows him and tries to blow up his car, which he has forcefully taken from a person. However, he dies every day in some form, as other assassins seem to locate his position every time. Essentially, Roy has become used to the routine but tries to figure out the cause of the temporal anomaly. As it turns out, Roy’s ex-wife, Jemma Wells (Naomi Watts), works as a scientist at the Dynow Laboratories. Her boss, Colonel Clive Ventor, is running a classified program.
The day before the time-loop starts, Roy visits Jemma’s lab, where they have a conversation about their filial problems. Col. Ventor keeps a tab on Jemma, and before Roy leaves, she tells him to remember the word “Osiris.” Roy slowly pieces the information together and finds that Jemma has put her in the loop and has been eliminated by Ventor. He works his way by piecing certain clues and finds that he is being tracked constantly.
After multiple tries, he is able to infiltrate the Dynow facility and understands that Jemma has initiated the time-loop to stop the megalomaniac Col. Ventor. Jemma entrusts Roy to put an end to the Colonel’s evil ways. However, there is a catch. The time machine, because of its prolonged operational status, brings about the end of the world. Roy experiences this situation multiple times and decides not to try any further to stop the event. He decides to mend his ways with his son and spends the time-loop trying to bond with him. But a stark revelation from his son forces Roy to renew his attempt of stopping the impending annihilation.
Boss Level Ending: Is Roy Able to Stop the End of World?
Every day, Roy tries to figure out a way to survive beyond a certain time period. He has experienced death in many forms, and with multiple attempts, he gains an edge over his assassins. Through his repeated efforts, he finally manages to enter the Dynow facility and put an end to Col. Ventor’s evil machinations. Ventor apparently wants to rewrite history and assume the powers of a god through his control of time.
However, when he is about to be eliminated by Roy, he reminds Roy of his son’s dangers. Roy figures out that despite all his efforts, the end of the world is evident. He loses hope but eventually decides to spend some quality time with his son. His profession and wayward attitude estranged him from his wife and son. He perceives the time-loop as an opportunity to relish the repeating moments with his son.
However, in one such conversation with his son, he finds that Jemma is alive at the start of the fateful day. He finds a renewed zeal to live through the time-loop and ventures out to save Jemma. Roy manages to do so in one attempt. Perhaps it is the only action that Roy completes at one go without dying. Jemma says that to stop the annihilation, Roy has to get to the time machine’s core and sync it with himself to break the dissonance. Essentially, the film explains that the disjunctive time-flow cannot be stopped as it has to be restarted.
Now, to restart the time-flow, Roy (the dissonant element) has to go back to the origin, which is the machine’s core in this case. Still, it is a matter of probability as the syncing might not restart time. Roy obliges but again wakes up in the same loop, indicating that the time flow hasn’t restarted. With the knowledge of the entire situation, Roy has a newfound zeal not to die and repeat the action unless stability is reached.
‘Boss Level’ lives up to its video game adjacency, as Roy gets multiple opportunities to replay the scenario. The knowledge of the scenario can be likened to completing a game, only to restart it again for a better transition. With multiple tries, Roy has achieved the boss level, wherein he is presumably undefeatable. Still, the design of the game forces him to relive the moment until the denouement is achieved. Interestingly, this ending depends upon probability — showing that we can never control time.
Why Do the Assassins Try to Kill Roy?
Col. Ventor keeps surveillance on Jemma. When Roy visits her office, Ventor has a hunch that Roy might turn out to be problematic. The scheming villain thinks that Roy might hinder his plan of global domination. Jemma’s erratic behavior in the office indicates that something is not right in the laboratory. She perhaps knows the real visage of Ventor and fears that he might harm her.
Ventor is a step ahead, and his surveillance gives him an edge over his employees. So, to nullify the possible threat of Roy, Ventor gets a tracking device fitted into his molar and hires a band of savage assassins to kill him. However, Jemma activates the time-loop, providing Roy with multiple opportunities to figure out the truth and fight his way out.
What is the Osiris Spindle?
The Osiris spindle is a time-machine of sorts that can help the user relive time and become unkillable. Given the nature of the time-loop, the user is not affected by senescence and can relive through the afterlife in the eventuality of death. This becomes clear through the analogy of Isis and Osiris. The Egyptian mythology tells us that Isis was a great magician who helped Osiris return from the afterlife after an attack by his enemy.
Roy is symbolically Osiris, who is awakened from death by Isis’ powers, which can be likened to Jemma’s abilities. Roy has to protect his family and seek vengeance for the dire conditions that led to the spindle’s operation. If operated without any control, the Osiris spindle leads to total annihilation — a fact that points to the folly of controlling time. Ventor tries to do so, but Jemma’s intervention stops the greater evil and prevents the spindle’s misuse.
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