Directed by James Ward Byrkit
Much like the shock the characters in Coherence experienced, viewers of the movie will be in for a great surprise as well. As the eight-person cast gathers together for a dinner party, complete with gossip and chatter, they could not possibly expect what lay before them. And as a viewer of Coherence, watching this mellow opening scene, you won’t either.
Before we get too far along, let it be known that if you are looking for a brainless movie that you can sit in front of, slack-jawed and indifferent, this is not the film for you.
Coherence is an incredibly intelligent puzzle of a movie that forces the viewer to keep up as things in this sci-fi story become increasingly deeper… and a passing knowledge of quantum physics is helpful as well. Okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but if you’ve got previous knowledge of Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox, you’re one step ahead of the game. If you don’t, it’s explained quite thoroughly in the movie. Imagine a story with the intricate levels of Inception done on a much smaller scale with a cast of just eight people. Sounds crazy, but it works.
Coherence is the story of the events that occur on the night of a dinner party consisting of eight friends. Coincidentally, there is a comet flying overhead at the same time, and as we all know, when comets come into play, all the rules go out the window, and Coherence definitely throws the rules out. Except it doesn’t, really. It questions our reality, or at least the concept that our reality is the only one. Can there be another, or several, and what would happen if these realities brushed against each other ever so slightly? How much could one existence change another, and how much force would have to be exerted to do so?
The cast is great and made up of some very recognizable faces such as Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Maury Sterling (Max from “Homeland”) and former Miss America Elizabeth Gracen, just to name a few. Emily Foxler is fantastic in her role as Em. The entire cast is very experienced, and they all shine in Coherence. And a strong cast was very key in this case as not only is Coherence a tightly-woven sci-fi story, but each of the four couples involved are also going through some kind of strain on their relationships as well. So it wasn’t enough to assemble a cast that could look up at a comet and be amazed; this group had to know how to bring it on several levels and did so brilliantly.
This is a movie that puts some responsibility on the viewer. You are asked to immerse yourself in the story because it takes so many quick turns that if you aren’t holding on tightly, you can easily be thrown from the ride and find yourself lost asking who’s who. But if you do commit to Coherence, you’ll be very satisfied as the entire puzzle (as delicately laid as it is) fits together perfectly when all the pieces are out of the box and assembled. With so many moving parts, it would have been easy for writer/director James Ward Byrkit to take a few shortcuts here and there, but the entire endeavor works very nicely and all the loose ends are tied up and explained. The fact that there are so many moments where you go, ‘Ohhhh, that’s not him,’ or have some other moment of realization gives Coherence a high re-watchable factor so you can go through the entire story with the full knowledge of exactly what is happening and watch the events unfold in a more omnipotent fashion.
For a film that starts with a quiet dinner party, Coherence ends with a bang. There are no huge effects, digital or otherwise, to speak of. No scary aliens or extra-terrestrial beasts. Just eight people experiencing the most mind-bending night of their lives. This is a really intelligent offering that shows just what you can do with the right script and the right cast and crew in place. It doesn’t have to be incredibly flashy if it’s intelligent and tense, and Coherence is definitely both.
4 out of 5