If Neil deGrasse Tyson made an indie sci-fi movie, it might be Coherence.
At once a suspenseful mind game and a wily mash-up of surreal quantum physics theories, this low-cost thriller — shot mostly on one set — proves that something approaching brilliance is not just a function of budget.
It all takes place amid four couples at a dinner party, the kind that starts off with handshakes, kisses and pre-dinner drinks and then explodes into anger and tears somewhere around the main course. In Coherence, that detonation is lit by a physical phenomenon: a comet swinging very close to Earth and the subsequent power/cellphone blackout.
Every house in the neighborhood is dark, save for one two blocks away. So what harm could it do to knock on their door to see if they are hospitable folks with a landline so that Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) can talk to his physicist brother to see what’s going on? Yeah, not such a great idea as it turns out — but it’s not alien monsters nor ax murderers they need to be worried about, it’s a quantum conundrum where universes collide.
First-time features director James Ward Byrkit, working from a story and script he and Alex Manugian collaborated on, keeps things taut for a fast-moving 89 minutes. Best of all, the twists keep coming and the film doesn’t fall apart in the third act.
The ensemble cast — including former Buffy: The Vampire Slayer heartthrob Nicholas Brendon as Mike, a guy with a drinking problem, and especially Emily Baldoni as unhappy Em — is strong enough to make you put aside questions of logic. After all, wouldn’t most people just break out the flashlights and wait for the power to come back on instead of banging on the door of a strange house down the street?
Maybe, but that movie wouldn’t be nearly as brain-teasingly fun.
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