I love a film that plays with conventions. It can be a rom-com that positions itself as a traditional romance involving the ability to time travel but it’s really a story of fathers, sons, and family (About Time). It can be a story of self-reflection, wherein the choices a person makes in the past has devastating implications on the future which impact the present (The Long Walk). Or, it can just be a rousing action thriller which is best not thought about beyond what happens between the first and last frames (Looper). If you haven’t noticed, each of these film invoke some kind of time travel aspect, though none involve a tradition loop, something one might see in Groundhog Day (1993) or Palm Springs (2020). In each of these films, a lesson is learned about what matters in life, either as a bigger-than-ourselves concept or as a more intimate idea. When playing with time, especially when it feels absolutely endless, all one can do is consider the wider implications. Credit where credit is due, director Craig Singer’s (Earth’s Call) latest film, 6:45, is dressed up exactly like your typical time loop film, except writer Robert Dean Klein (Wrong Companion) found a way to twist that convention until the pulpy meaty bits break through their fleshy container. This is all well and good to raise the stakes, but where the film ends up is nasty for all the wrong reasons.
During a lull from their most recent dust-up, couple Bobby (Michael Reed) and Jules (Augie Duke) venture out to remote island Bog Grove to spend some time at a bed and breakfast, take in the sites, and reconnect. After a fairly blissful day together, Bobby proposes and Jules accepts, their conflict seemingly smaller than either realized in the face of their love. Except, moments after saying “yes,” both are executed by a wordless figure. But that’s not the end for the couple as Bobby whips awake to the sound of his alarm, somehow unharmed and back at the start of their first day at Bog Grove. Though he has the knowledge of what’s the come, each choice he makes ends the same way for them both over and over and over unless he can figure out a way to break the cycle of violence.
Unlike other time loop films Groundhog Day and Palm Springs, the violence in 6:45 is not played for laughs. There’s nothing funny about the identical way in which Bobby and Jules die over and again. There’s nothing joyous, nothing silly, and certainly nothing remotely sacred about the violation we witness. Unlike those films, the means of escape is far clearer and doesn’t require learning quantum physics or living out thousands of years to work out. The issue is that not only is the path to freedom perfectly clear for us, it’s clear to Bobby as well. Even if we don’t realize it at first, the audience comes to recognize that what we’re watching is as much a metaphor for the doomed relationship as it is for who Bobby is: a misogynist who paints himself as an ally. He can’t escape because he can’t see, or isn’t willing to see, the violence he causes each day with every breath of his life. While this revelation might seem like a spoiler, I assure you it’s not as the script goes out of its way to tease details where it doesn’t outright say them via dialogue or flashback that indicates Bobby is a man who drinks too much, fights too easily, and possesses a few other vices. Though I applaud the film for making sure the audience knows what a P.O.S. Bobby is, it seems to side with him rather than admonish him.
Consider the following:
Bobby is the only one of the couple seemingly affected by the time loop. Jules dies moments before he does and he watches it happen (somehow always startled into immobility). Her suffering is as constant as his, the only difference being that she doesn’t remember the bloodletting whereas he remembers not only her repetitive death but his own. The film makes sure that we see Bobby’s struggles to keep her alive and him wrestling with the knowledge that nothing he does changes the outcome. The script smartly weaponizes Bobby’s failings, making it harder for Bobby to tell her the truth of their situation in a way that makes her a partner versus a dependent he cares for. So while the audience might be screaming at Bobby to tell her the about the time loop without biting her head off, he’s literally incapable of doing so. Even when the cycle is inevitably broken, Bobby continues to see himself as the victim of the experience, not her. Even as the time loop gets an explanation, an expectedly morbid one given the genre of the film, Bobby is positioned as the central player, the one with agency, the one for whom we should feel sorry. Especially as one starts to realize that we only ever get to know Jules through Bobby or through her reactions to his words and deeds, the character is little more than a prop. If Klein sought to make Bobby the villain, it’s an absolute miss of an attempt. Bobby’s a monster for all the reasons that Jules worried he might be and worse. Yet, despite the final scene of the film, the implications being partly gnarly, there’s a case to be made that we’re meant to feel empathy for Bobby versus absolute condemnation.
With the lens that the loop is a representation of Bobby himself, the way in which characters are presented makes a great deal of sense. There’re stereotypical characters, uncomfortably stiff dialogue (both in writing and delivery), and a pervasive hollowness to everything. Very little has meaning that wouldn’t have meaning without Bobby. Considered in this way, it seems like a conscious choice, but I don’t think that’s the reality. That might be hyping too much credit onto a screenplay that wants to be more clever than it actually is. Instead, the character is playing catch-up while the audience must endure murder after senseless murder. There’s no creativity, no reason to care, and no sense that our watching does any more than kill time we won’t get back. Perhaps, if the protagonist weren’t such an unrepentant jag-off, the approach to the narrative might hit differently. But, taken as is, 6:45 is just unpleasant, even as a distraction.
6:45 Special Features
- Well Go USA Previews
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital March 22nd, 2022.
Final Score: 2 out of 5.