‘Synchronic’ is a time travel sci-fi movie written and co-directed by Justin Benson. The film follows paramedics Steve and Dennis as they encounter the strange and fatal effects of a new designer drug that seems to be popular amongst youngsters. As Steve (Anthony Mackie) starts exploring the drug, which is also the film’s namesake, by self-administering it, its astonishing effects take him to places he never dreamt of. A movie that hides a mind-bending temporal adventure (and a wooly mammoth!) under its calm and moody surface, ‘Synchronic’ has most likely left you with some burning questions. Fear not, we’ve got your back! SPOILERS AHEAD.
Synchronic Meaning and Plot Synopsis
‘Synchronic’ opens with a couple on a bed consuming a mysterious white pill. Soon enough, the two begin to hallucinate, with the woman seeing a forest and a snake, while the man imagines falling from the sky. The story then turns to the two protagonists, Steve and Dennis, who are paramedics and childhood friends, as they are called to assist with a string of inexplicable and gruesome deaths. The victims that they encounter range from being violently stabbed, burnt, to even being bitten by a rare venomous snake.
Soon enough, Steve figures out that there is a connection between the deaths and a mysterious new designer drug called Synchronic. As Steve and Dennis go from one grizzly case to another, we find out that Dennis is unhappy in his marriage and has a teenage daughter and a newborn child. We also learn that Steve is suffering from an inoperable tumor on his pineal gland, which will eventually kill him but until then keeps his pineal gland from calcifying, essentially making it resemble that of a teenager.
On one of their assignments, the duo arrives at an apartment where a young man is dying from a drug overdose. They are told that Dennis’ daughter Brianna was also there but disappeared after consuming Synchronic. Fed up and wanting to get to the bottom of the troublesome white pills, Steve goes to a store and buys their entire stock of the drug.
Soon after, with the help of Dr. Kermani, who claims to be the creator of Synchronic, Steve begins to unravel the effects of the drug. He finds that it allows those with an uncalcified pineal gland (like his) to travel back in time. Through further experimentation, he figures out that he can control what period he goes back to by changing his location in the present and that he can carry things with him across time.
Making up his mind to try and rescue his friend’s daughter Brianna, he goes to the spot that she disappeared from and takes the pill, only to end up on a treetop, surrounded by strange tribal men. Barely managing to escape, he then asks Dennis what the latter would do if he were in Brianna’s place and stuck in the past. Dennis replies that he’d try to leave them a permanent message, and the two then realize that Brianna might be at one of her regular spots, near a boulder from where one can see the skyline of the city.
Synchronic Ending: What Happens to Steve?
Steve and Dennis go to the boulder where they believe they might find Brianna in the past. The boulder has the word “Allways” engraved roughly on it, which they believe is put there by Brianna. When Dennis offers to go into the past instead of Steve, he is told by Steve that that would be impossible since he has a calcified pineal gland. Due to Steve’s tumor, which has kept his pineal gland uncalcified, he can travel in time with the pill, much like its young victims.
Steve suddenly disappears, going back into the past. He arrives in what looks like a warzone, with mines and bombs going off all around him. As he looks for Brianna, he gets injured by stray shrapnel and falls into a ditch full of corpses, where he finally finds her alive and well. Steve then gives her the last Synchronic pill, helping her get back to the present whilst condemning himself to remain in the past. The last we see of Steve is when he appears as a ghostly apparition in the present, where Dennis has just been reunited with Brianna.
The two friends shake hands for one last time before Steve completely disappears, leaving his fate unknown to the audience. So the first question that comes to mind is what happens to Steve. We see him valiantly give the last Synchronic pill to Brianna, letting her escape, but he is unable to go along with her because of his injury. The two are also accosted by one of the fighters from the war raging in the background, who threatens them with a gun and stops Brianna from taking Steve with her to the present.
So after seeing his apparition disappear in the present, we know that Steve is now stuck in the past, most likely during the Civil War period. Being stuck in a period where racism is prevalent is bad enough for him, as we have already seen on two occasions before when he was threatened by white people, with some even sporting Klan robes. His situation is made worse since he has an inoperable tumor, which cannot be treated with the rudimentary treatments available in the past, where he is now stuck.
We can say with confidence that he is “stuck” in the past because, after the suicide of Synchronic’s creator Dr. Kermani, it is expressly noted that there are no more of the time-traveling pills left. Sadly, it is most likely that Steve dies whilst in the past. This conclusion, however, is hinted at earlier in the film in a conversation between Dennis and Steve as we see that the latter has largely made peace with his impending death.
The only thing that we know about Steve’s subsequent actions in the past is that he most likely carves the word “Allways” into the boulder that we see him sitting on at the end of the movie. Initially thought to be a sign from Brianna whilst she is stuck in the past, we subsequently see her deny engraving the word on the boulder. We also see that when Steve arrives in the past, the word is not engraved on the boulder, leading us to believe that it is Steve that carves the word into stone, leaving something permanent behind.
Why Does Synchronic Cause People to Die?
As we slowly find out over the course of the film, first through Dr. Kermani’s explanation and later through Steve’s experiments, taking a pill of Synchronic causes the consumer to go back in time for 7 minutes. This effect, however, only occurs with children and teenagers who have an uncalcified pineal gland. Steve also undergoes the time travel effects of the drug since his brain tumor has kept his pineal gland decalcified.
Synchronic doesn’t kill people, but its time-traveling effects occasionally result in their deaths. This is because the drug takes the user back in time whilst keeping them in the same physical spot. Hence, the man seen at the beginning of the movie takes the drug whilst in a building and, upon going back in time, when the building doesn’t exist, finds himself high up in the air. He subsequently falls to his death.
Similarly, the charred remains the protagonists come across are of an unfortunate Synchronic user who goes back in time only to get trapped in a burning room that was on fire in the past. After 7 minutes, the corpses of the users return to the present, along with anything else they were touching at the time of their deaths.
How Long is Brianna Stuck in the Past?
Though not specified, we know that at least a few days go by (in the present) between when Brianna disappears to when Steve rescues her. During this time, we see Dennis attempt to find her, print out missing-person posters, argue with his wife, and dolefully inform Steve that his marriage is falling apart. Steve, meanwhile, conducts experiments using his stock of Synchronic pills to figure out if he can rescue Brianna.
When he goes back to the violent, war-torn past, he finds Brianna a short distance away from the boulder. Though a little dirty and slightly bruised, she claims to be perfectly fine, and it is clear that she would’ve been in a much worse condition had she spent a few days in that war-torn area. The dangerous environment is further reinforced when we see Steve get injured soon after arriving. We can therefore conclude that it has only been a few moments or hours at most since Brianna arrived in the past.
This is further supported by Steve’s findings of how the Synchronic pills work with time travel. Since the period in the past that the pill’s consumer arrives in depends on their physical location in the present, we can conclude that both Brianna and Steve take the pill whilst sitting on the boulder, which is Brianna’s go-to spot and also where we last see Steve’s apparition. Since they both take the pill whilst at the same spot, they both arrive at the same point in time in the past, with only a small time difference between their arrivals. This means that only a few moments after Brianna arrives in the past, Steve appears and rescues her, sending her back to the present.
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