Frequency

on April 28, 2000 by Michael Tunison
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The question "What if it happened differently?"--one of the human psyche's favorite means of torturing itself--gets an imaginative theoretical workout in "Frequency." In the capable hands of director Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear"), this "Twilight Zone"-ish tale about a radio linkup through time builds credible drama in a way that's rare for sci-fi pieces, though the signal starts to fade a bit in the too-cutely packaged second half.

   The catchy premise follows the chain of events triggered when New York City cop John Sullivan ("The Thin Red Line's" Jim Caviezel) tunes in an old ham radio set and--surprise!--finds himself talking to his long-dead fireman dad Frank (Dennis Quaid). It seems that unusually bright aurora borealis activity has somehow allowed father and son to breach the normal parameters of time-space and converse across a gap of 30 years. After getting used to the idea, John takes the opportunity to warn his pop about the rescue call that cost him his life, thus changing Frank's "future" and--as any fan of time-travel stories could have told him--opening up a Pandora's box of repercussions in the present. To make sure the stakes remain high, screenwriter Toby Emmerich (president of New Line's music division) even manages to work in a fearsome serial killer imperiling lives in both time periods.

   Hoblit, who tread similar narrative ground in the underappreciated supernatural thriller "Fallen," knows how to crank up the suspense and throw unexpected hooks at the audience, but it's the emotionally believable interaction between Quaid and Caviezel that gives the film its soul. Interestingly, it's easier to accept the idea of their miraculous short-wave calls through time than some of some of the plot twists that take place in the supposedly ordinary world once the standard Hollywood-style villain arrives on the scene. Starring Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Andre Braugher and Elizabeth Mitchell. Directed by Gregory Hoblit. Written by Toby Emmerich. Produced by Howard W. "Hawk" Koch Jr., Bill Carraro and Toby Emmerich. A New Line release. Drama/Thriller. Rated PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images. Running time: 115 min

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