Narcopolis Is the Time Machine for a Modern Era
Time travel movies, by their nature, can be complicated, confusing pieces of work. Some work incredibly well (Looper), while others fall flat (2002’s The Time Machine). Without a strong story and emotional backbone, a movie in this genre can often spin out of control, leaving viewers confused and dissatisfied.
Perhaps the reason Narcopolis (written and directed by Justin Trefgarne) works so well is the balance it strikes with viewers. While much is left up to interpretation, the movie manages to strike a strong emotional connection that leaves many of the leftover questions moot.
The movie opens in London of 2044, with Todd Ambro (James Callis) explaining why it was so important that his company, the Ambrose Corporation, helped legalize all drugs within the country twenty-five years ago. Under the emotional explanation, though, lies the true reason for it all–so that his company could have control of the population.
The movie quickly cuts to two unnamed people breaking into the Ambro headquarters, determined to stop the company’s drug work, once and for all.
Things go south, though, and the movie cuts to London of 2024.
This is where we meet our main character, Frank Grieves (Elliot Cowan), a struggling ‘Dreck’– a futuristic cop attempting to keep black market drugs off the street, which ensures the free flow of Ambro drugs.
When he discovers a disfigured body with no identification, it sets him down a path of no return, where the truth is liable to get him killed. Unable to give up the mysterious case even after being taken off it, he finds a woman named Eva Gray (Elodie Yung), who holds the missing pieces to the puzzle Frank must put together to uncover what the Ambrose Corporation is truly attempting to accomplish–to create a drug that will allow time travel.
Frank and the world he inhabits are very reminiscent of Blade Runner. While everything appears slick, there is a gritty underbelly hiding beneath it all. Both Frank and his estranged wife are recovering drug users, leading to strained relations. Due to his work and separation from his wife, Frank rarely sees his son Ben (Louis Trefgarne), but clearly dotes on him.
Frank’s relationship with Ben is the linchpin within the film; both actors do an excellent job of portraying a relationship that is rocky, yet still infused with love and care. Frank gives Ben a copy of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which mirrors many of the movie’s themes–those of class, and the damage that technology can cause if placed within the wrong hands.
The movie isn’t without its faults. While the lack of explanation works in its favor when dealing with the time traveling aspects, the logic behind the sinister Ambrose Corporation is less clear, beyond “they are corporate, so they must be evil.” Why they so desperately want time travel technology is left up to interpretation, and to some viewers, could prove incredibly frustrating.
While the writing occasionally falters, the film contains some strong ideas and arresting visuals, along with a strong emotional core.
The cast is incredibly strong, and is rounded out by two Game of Thrones alumni, Jonathan Pryce and Harry Lloyd.
If you have any interest in gritty futuristic or time travel films, it’s definitely worth a viewing.
NARCOPOLIS arrives in theaters and on VOD October 2, 2015!! Check it out!!
Thanks to Theresa Karasek, for her contributions to this review.