I’m going to try to review ARQ without giving away the plot twists, though that’s not an easy task. The one I will give away is that it’s a bit of a post-apocalyptic dystopian future version of Groundhog Day. Kind of. Until it isn’t.
Trapped in a lab and stuck in a time loop, a disoriented couple fends off masked raiders while harboring a new energy source that could save humanity.
The blurb from Netflix gives away little of the plot. The disoriented couple in question, Renton and Hannah, awake and greet each other like it’s an ordinary day after an unexpected hook-up. That is until masked assailants charge into the room and take them hostage. After their captivity ends badly, for a reason that I won’t go into here, they are flashed back to the moment of their awakening. Renton wakes first and finds he recalls what happened last time.
Renton is able to adjust his actions, and so adjust the outcome of some of the interactions with Hannah and the attackers. But eventually it goes badly for him again, and he awakes at the same point again. And again. This creates an ever changing version of the day’s events with him able to slightly change the outcome each time.
So far so Groundhog Day…
But the story introduces a clever twist on the Groundhog Day plot mechanic. Things don’t just head towards an inevitable positive conclusion via multiple improved iterations of the same day. Things change, actions change and outcomes change. Renton can’t rely on just doing things differently himself; things that are outside of his control also shift adding an element of chaos to the proceedings.
Eventually the ever-shifting landscape of the plot leads our “heroes” towards a decision related to the “new energy source that could save humanity.”
ARQ, much like Spectral (another Netflix original movie that didn’t get a cinema release), is too good to be considered a straight to DVD type of affair.
Better than Straight to DVD
- The acting’s better than your standard straight to DVD movie. The main characters played by Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor are believable although their actions sometimes are a bit far-fetched.
- The set, while limited to a single house, is adequate and convincing.
- There are no needs for major special effects as the time-loop mechanism just plays out as a reawakening.
- The backstory is given to the viewer via character interactions rather than spoon-feeding of montages or text overlays. You learn that this world is mainly ruled by a corporate body “TORQUE” because the characters talk about it, or a news story is playing on the TV, not because you’re being told it directly. It’s a difficult task to pull off but ARQ does it well and leaves you wanting to know more about the state of the world and the powers that are fighting over it.
The other recent movie that it’s easy to draw comparisons to is “Edge of Tomorrow” where the protagonist has to relive the same day, and gets better at completing his objective each time. There really is no comparison in many ways, with Edge of Tomorrow winning hands-down on backstory, special effects, star appeal and the satisfaction of the ending. But the twist on the time-loop mechanic that ARQ brings into play at least make it worth a watch.
ARQ in summary
In summary, ARQ is an intelligent Sci-fi drama that shows you sometimes don’t need a huge cast, massive sets and expensive special effects to tell and compelling story. It’s well made, well acted and provides enough story to keep it interesting till the end.