TIFF 2016 Review: ARQ12 September 2016 / by Kelly Lewars (author)
Writer/Director: Tony Elliott
With well-schemed plot twists and continual action, Tony Elliott continues to impress you and keep you guessing with his first movie, Netflix-produced ARQ.
ARQ takes place in a future where dwindling resources have corporations fighting against governments and those that are left after a virus has decimated populations of people.
The movie begins at 6:16 AM with Renton, played by Robbie Amell (The Flash, Tomorrow People), looking lovingly, mayhaps even longingly, at the person he’s woken beside, Hannah, played by Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones). A golden tattoo flows on her arm, which Renton covers up as a soft, warm light seeps through mostly blackened windows to fill the room. As quickly as the peaceful scene has been set, it’s disrupted. Masked brutes break through the door, knocking Renton over and dragging him from his bed out of the room. This particular scene, the cozy, sparse room and its pieces of Renton and Hannah, becomes home to the viewer and its different, repeating incarnations.
You see, Renton and Hannah are stuck in a time loop. A time loop brought about by Renton’s invention of a renewing energy source, the ARQ, and he doesn’t think that it’s just food or "scripts” these home invaders are looking for, but the invention, in order to give it to the corporation Torus, which is calling the shots.
Part of what lends well to the believability of ARQ is the visual setting. Renton’s home is the cradle of dystopian domesticity as LED Christmas lights trail along vandalized walls throughout the mostly sparse and mostly dark house . The home invaders wear air masks and scarves that obscure their face and heavy clothes meant to minimize exposure to the elements while Hannah wear a waifish looking tunic under a netted sweater. (Please sir, can I have some more?)
Though the movie maintains a sobering tone over the character’s high stakes plot, Elliot manages to sprinkle humorous bits throughout the movie as evidenced by the chortles that went up through the theatre. Most of the laughs were connected to Amell’s action or dialogue; however, it’s Taylor’s facial expressions and their on-camera changes that really worked well to highlight a few scenes.
What I think you’ll like most about this movie is that it will keep you guessing, you’ll be able to predict some plot points, but you won’t be able to predict how they’ll affect the story or what Elliott has the characters do. The action sequences keep a good balance of suspense and realism.
This movie’s not perfect (I would have liked to see more emotional or sexual tension between Renton and Hannah) but it’s very good and is definitely something that sci-fi fans will be talking about, especially fans of Tony Elliot’s work. This September 15, make sure to add it to your Netflix watchlist.