Netflix recently announced they want to make half of their content ‘Netflix Originals’ and ARQ is a latest instalment into this promise. ARQ stars Robbie Amell as a Renton, a mechanic who is stuck in a time-loop with his ex and a sinister bunch of mercenaries bent on robbing and murdering him. Think Edge of Tomorrow in one house – it’s not as awful as it sounds.
Director Tony Elliott makes his feature directing debut and will leave most with anticipation for future work. Hats off to Netflix for giving this guy a shot outside of writing for their other property: Orphan Black. The film maintains a tone of unease throughout and gives you little exposition in the way of what the hell is going on from the start; you are as confused as Renton. The plot offers a healthy amount of twists but can become convoluted if you view it as a background ‘Netflix and Chill’ flick. I would not recommend it for that. For what is a simple plot and essentially one setting of the house, replaying said story, the film does exceedingly well in making repetition entertaining.
This entertainment is also due to the strong lead in Amell. Now he is primarily known for his CW Network heartthrob roles playing a dashing hero in shows like The Tomorrow People and The Flash. He commands a full length film impressively. His acting is authentic and he truly embodies his character from the start with pretty solid acting throughout. His co-star comes in the form of Rachael Taylor, most recently known for Marvel’s Jessica Jones, playing the protagonist’s friend Trish. In ARQ she is a bit of a marmite character, despite her excellent performance. This is due to a writing flaw that affects her relationship with Renton. Their background is eventually squeezed out of the tight lipped exposition master and after the time waited, it feels a flimsy excuse for character development and offers not much reasoning for her actions during the film. Aside from the slight simplification of their background, this does not cast a negative shadow over the rest of the film. The science-fiction ‘timey-wimey’ elements to the story are explained in perfect easy terms with added visual aids, so even the most average film watcher will understand, if you pay attention.
Whilst not comparing it to Shutter Island, it does offer occasional moments, especially in the conclusion, where the audience is wide-mouthed and slowly working out the clues dropped throughout. It is this reason that this film should not be overlooked as a bargain-bin sci-fi attempting to copy Edge of Tomorrow. Its script feels more cleverly thought out in terms of the science than Tom Cruise’s alien counterpart and the ending is satisfying for the imagination.
TV actors get that Netflix money and put out an exciting film that should not be scrolled past; it has zero rewatch value but is a fun ride with stellar acting.
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