Turn Back the Clock
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When the movie Frequency first came out, I think I was attracted to it because of the involvement of a HAM radio in the plot. You see, my dad has been a licensed HAM radio operator since I was a little kid and I would spend hours listening to him talk with other countries in both regular speech and Morse code. Those hours equaled serious bonding time between me and my dad and I wouldn't trade them for anything, so I liked the idea of a dead father talking to his son on the HAM through some miraculous event. Having seen the movie now more than once, I still can't help talking about it...and watching it again for G-POP.net readers' sakes.
The movie takes place in 1999 and features Jim Caviezel as John Sullivan, a New York City homicide detective with some serious bonding issues. You see, John's best friend and hero was his father, Firefighter Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid), but Frank died in a warehouse fire thirty years ago and his death traumatized his son on a deep level to the point where John is afraid to bind deeply with anyone for fear of losing them.
One night, in October, just a day before the anniversary date of his father's death, John finds himself talking to someone on his father's believed broken HAM radio, thanks to unusual aurora borealis activity. As the conversation moves forward, the two realize just who it is they are speaking to and John tries to warn his father against the events that took place on that fateful night that caused his death. This strange turn of events causes a change in history. Listening to his future son speak of the events that will take his life, Frank does things differently and survives the warehouse fire.
But the two soon learn that changing the past has a direct impact on the future. Suddenly, John's life is changed - his father now has died of cancer from smoking, while his mother Julia (Elizabeth Mitchell), alive before the life-changing conversation on the HAM radio, is now dead. Apparently, thanks to something that Frank did the night of the warehouse fire caused history to change. His wife, a nurse at a local hospital, now has become a victim of the Nightingale serial killer.
Now, father and son must work together to solve the Nightingale murders before the serial killer can get to Julia. It's a race against time to set things right...but can they really be set right. After all, once you start changing history, the future can never be the same.
Yes, the storyline is a bit farfetched, but so what. I loved the sci-fi meets murder mystery meets psychological drama format of the film. It brings up a lot of questions...questions that have been raised before, mind you, but this time in a unique style. What if you could somehow talk to someone in your past...or in the past in general...and warn them against something that they do that can cause serious sorrow in your world or the world at large? Would you do it? And at what cost? It wasn't enough that John was able to talk to his long dead father by some freak act of nature and science. No, in a last ditch act of desperation, he changed the past by offering his father advice that would change his future.
I loved the fact that, although things had been changed in John's life, he had memories of what his life was before and new memories made thanks to the change in history. Totally weird, yet completely comprehensible. The use of the HAM radio in this movie was awesome. People who have never used the HAM have no idea what can happen on that radio thanks to fluctuations in the Earth's atmosphere - countries you may never have been able to contact before suddenly come in crystal clear depending on the weather. The idea that the aurora borealis activity can cause a time rift of sorts, allowing one to talk to someone over decades is unique, but entirely conceivable to a science fiction fan.
I enjoyed the references to the 1969 World Series, being a Mets fan just like the main characters in the movie. It was nice to see the old footage of the game and listen to the characters talk to one another about the game as if it was happening in the here and now. This was something else my dad and I bonded over - baseball and the New York Mets.
I'm not a huge Dennis Quaid fan, but I found him totally believable as the reckless fireman and loving family man Frank Sullivan. Jim Caviezel's portrayal of John Sullivan was at times heart-wrenching and at others heartwarming. Still other times, you want to smack him upside the head and warn him of the dangers of tampering with the past. Unfortunately, although she had a decent sized role in the film, I think the writers missed out on something by not including more of the fine talents of Elizabeth Mitchell. She has an incredible dramatic flare and I felt she could have contributed more to the film.
Overall, Frequency is a great film that I can't help but bring up once I learn that someone is a fan of HAM radio or sci-fi movies. It's one of those memorable films that I can watch over and over again.