A smart sci-fi thriller, ARQ serves as a good example of how to intelligently use time travel to tell a story.
Shortly after waking up one morning, Ren (Robbie Amell) and Hannah (Rachael Taylor) are ambushed and kidnapped by a group of masked men. After suffering a fatal injury during his attempted escape, Ren, rather than dying, wakes with a start and relives the incident again. We soon learn that he is trapped in an endlessly repeating three-hour time loop. Each loop ends with his death, but the next loop starts with him being more aware of his predicament.
So far, so Groundhog Day. Unlike Groundhog Day, however, ARQ has no time for humour. It’s a very serious affair. A wider story of all-out war – between megacorporation Torus and a smaller rebel force called Bloc – is suggested and mentioned throughout, but the focus is kept solely on the replaying passage of time. This keeps the film streamlined but also adds a sense of depth to the proceedings. A very effective illusion.
Time travel is a tricky subject to get right. More often than not it tends to make a plot needlessly convoluted and leaves the timeline in a tangled mess that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. Luckily, ARQ doesn’t fall into this trap. The tight script keeps the plot from completely unravelling and the frantic pace doesn’t allow us enough time to heavily scrutinise it.
ARQ defies its modest budget and presents itself as an interesting episode of a much larger tale. Tony Elliot’s smart script and deft direction along with solid performances from the small cast make this worth a watch.
At its heart, ARQ is a war story told from within the confines of a minimalist house/bunker. It’s an entertaining slice of science fiction that will keep you engaged from start to finish.