Time Travel Thursday: Stasis (2017)
Time travel tropes5
Matthew Turner | On 27, Jun 2019
Director: Nicole Jones-Dion
Cast: Anna Harr, Mark Grossman, Phyllis Spielman, Tiana Masaniai, Caleb Thomas, Richard Lippert, Jeff Locker, Kelsey Boze, Andrew Bering, William Knight, Maddison Bullock
Watch Stasis online in the UK: Netflix UK
Wondering how to fill the time travel gap now that Travelers and Timeless have been cancelled? Then transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursdays, our column devoted to time travel movies on Netflix. It’s on Thursdays.
“Sometimes I wish time travel had never been invented. It’s more trouble than it’s worth”. That’s the best line in this frequently frustrating, zero budget sci-fi thriller from writer-director Nicole Jones-Dion. There are plenty of good ideas floating about, but they’re mostly undermined by some woeful performances and a script that can’t decide which story it wants to tell. That said, it’s still surprisingly entertaining in a watchable rubbish sort of way.
The plot begins in 2067, with the world reduced to a post-apocalyptic wasteland after a devastating nuclear attack that killed 7 billion people. Pursued by sinister government forces, Time Agents-slash-lovers Seattle (Kelsey Boze) and Lancer (Gregory Shelby) agree to be sent back in time to prevent the apocalypse. Their time travel method of choice is exactly the same as in the TV show Travelers – i.e. their consciousnesses are projected through time, into the bodies of people who were supposed to have died.
Landing in 2017, Seattle ends up in the body of Ava (Anna Harr), a stroppy 15 year old who’d taken a drug overdose while out partying with her would-be boyfriend (Caleb Thomas). The problem is that Ava wasn’t quite dead, which leaves her as a ghost-like remnant, who can’t be seen or heard. From Ghost Ava’s perspective, Seattle has stolen both her body and her life and she’s determined to get it back. Meanwhile, Seattle and Lancer (now Mark Grossman) find themselves targeted by a Terminator-like Huntress (Tiana Masaniai), who’s been sent from the future to wipe out the time rebels.
You can guess how confused the storytelling is by the fact that the official synopses on Netflix and the IMDb are completely different, one focused on Ava and the other on the Time Agents. That turns out to be the film’s biggest problem. The back-to-the-past-to-save-the-future angle is a compelling hook (Travelers got three seasons out of it, after all), but despite all the set-up, the film largely abandons that idea once Masaniai’s Huntress shows up, while devoting more time to the less interesting teen movie angle.
To that end, the film tries to focus on both Avas simultaneously, so the Ghost Teen plot sits alongside the Save The Future plot without the two interacting in a satisfactory way. That said, when the two stories do finally connect, the plot takes an intriguingly dark turn (a plan to save the world getting derailed by a stroppy teenager), but the film completely ignores the consequences of that idea.
The film’s most frustrating aspect is that it has plenty of potential for strong emotional material, yet has no idea what to do with it. For example, there’s an engaging doomed romance in the notion of two lovers who can’t be together in their new bodies (Ava’s 15, Lancer’s new body is 20-something), as well as the idea that the situation heals the broken relationship between Ava and her mother (a bit like a body-swap movie), but the writing isn’t strong enough to do either of those justice.
In a similar way, the film doesn’t even follow through on its own plot developments. For example, it’s established that Ava can text or type on a computer as a ghost, but she never tries to tell either her mother or her would-be boyfriend what’s going on and instead is more concerned with stopping her boyfriend from hooking up with her best friend (Maddison Bullock). More bizarrely, she doesn’t even attempt to communicate with Seattle Ava, even after Seattle Ava realises that Ghost Eva is a thing that’s happening.
The film is further undermined by Harr, who doesn’t sufficiently distinguish between her two characters. Similarly, Grossman is rather bland as Lancer and is given next to nothing to do. Still, at least the time travel conceit allows Huntress to be transferred into a much better actor – Rebecca Raines is painfully awful in her single scene as Future Huntress, so Tiana Masaniai comes as a welcome relief, and is clearly one of the few people having fun. (The other is William Knight as a Star Wars-esque government villain in the future, but he’s sadly under-used.)
On the plus side, the film deserves credit for the way it incorporates and adapts ideas from other movies. The highlight in that regard is the Huntress’ weapon of choice (described as a “nasty new toy”), a box-like device that works like the machine in Ghostbusters, essentially removing and trapping the soul from the host body, killing both the host and the hooked-up-to-the-machine Time Agent back in the future.
There are other nice little touches, such as the fact that the Time Agents refer to the future and the past as uptime and downtime or the film’s micro-budget depiction of time travel (basically, lots of wires on head, Doctor Who-esque time tunnel graphic). It even attempts to grapple with the whole linear time travel paradox thing, with Lancer arguing that their mission must have failed because they’re still there.
Despite its multiple flaws, this is surprisingly watchable, although it’s definitely one of those films where you find yourself writing a better version in your head as it goes along.
Stasis is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.