Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Diverge: Back from the Post-Apocalypse

Time is like a river, or maybe it acts like sub-atomic molecules. A theoretical physicist like Dmitri Tarkov could explain which is correct. He has a theory about time travel that he will put into practice after a super-virus brings on Armageddon. Molecular biologist Chris Towne is the perfect subject to send back in time. His curative strain might have saved humanity and it might yet do so in James Morrison’s Diverge (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Towne’s wife Anna is dying, but she hung on far longer than most the infected, due to the surviving shreds of a cure-all hybrid he developed in the days leading up to the apocalypse. Unfortunately, he entrusted it in the wrong people. Therefore, nobody is better equipped to alter history. Tarkov will give him the opportunity to do exactly that, after Anna’s inevitable death. Like Towne, Tarkov is also immune, but his daughter Daisy was/is not.

Granted, Towne did not exactly sign up for this, but what does he have to lose? Tarkov even gives him personal information that will convince his earlier self to help. Yet, he is still unprepared for the skullduggery surrounding his plant.

Admittedly, Diverge is far from a perfect film. It spends way too much time mired in the post-apocalyptic wasteland before it finally gets down to its time travel business. However, the second and third acts are cleverly plotted and hold several fresh surprises. Once again time travel lends itself to some provocative but largely special effects-free science fiction speculation. In terms of tone, think of it as a better alternative to Stasis or a more conflict driven Movement+Location.

Morrison shows he has cool ideas as a director and screenwriter, but he labors under the limitations of his budget and cast. Jamie Jackson is terrific as Tarkov, creating two very different personas for the same character in each time frame. Co-producer Andrew Sensenig (We Are Still Here, Camera Obscura) continues to be one of those constantly busy genre character actors, who is immediately credible in any role, including his turn here as creepy corporate headhunter Jim Eldon. Unfortunately, the rest of the ensemble is pretty hit-or-miss.

Using little more than a few news reports of livestock outbreaks, Morrison creates a palpable sense that the end is nigh (again). Diverge, his feature debut, is a bit messy and inconsistently paced, but it is sufficiently distinctive and inventive to make us eager to see his next film. Recommended for genre fans who appreciate emerging talent, Diverge releases today on VOD.