Isaac Ezban has become quite the legend in his native Mexico. He’s directed several unique genre pieces – The Incident and The Similars – that have been recognized by horror maestros like Guillermo del Toro and Joe Dante. He’s the co-founder of Autocinema Coyote, the biggest drive-in chain in Mexico. The sci-fi feature Parallel marks Ezban’s first English-language feature, adapted from a screenplay by newcomer Scott Blaszak. The film’s expert, supremely entertaining blend of science fiction, comedy, thriller, and horror elements further showcases Ezban’s undeniable talent and demonstrates why he’s got a slew of high-profile projects slated, including the Dan Simmons adaptation Summer of Night.
After a brief but pulse-pounding prologue, wherein we meet Marissa (Kathleen Quinlan) and her multiverse doppelganger, the film introduces us to its central crew of young entrepreneur wannabes: Noel (Martin Wallström), Devin (Aml Ameen), Leena (Georgia King), and Josh (Mark O’Brien). In a rush to develop a revolutionary parking app before their competitors beat them to the punch, they happen to stumble upon a mirror that grants them access to a multitude of parallel dimensions. Catch #1? One minute in our realm equals three hours in any of the chosen dimensions. Catch #2? Don’t, under any circumstances, run into your “other self” (Back to the Future-style).
Each of the dimensions is very similar to ours. With a slight tilt of the mirror, the attics they enter change, yet they always exit back to our dimension. Excited by the prospects this scientific anomaly presents, our heroes start experimenting. For one, they come up with a shrewd solution to their deadline issue, developing the app in record time. While they may not be able to predict lottery numbers, they can charge their doubles’ credit cards. The discovery of a Ryan Gosling film that I will not reveal here leads to perhaps the movie’s most exciting and hilarious revelation. Consequently, artwork is “appropriated,” incredible tech advances are made, and our gang becomes rich beyond their wildest dreams.
“…they happen to stumble upon a mirror that grants them access to a multitude of parallel dimensions.”
Of course, things aren’t all rosy. Devin – the moral center of the story – is worried about Noel, who’s sliding further and further into unhinged depths. Josh is involved in an accident. There’s an inter-dimensional kidnapping, multiple betrayals, and a dissection that’s worth the price of admission by itself. Ezban keeps things rolling, and if there are inconsistencies or holes in this dense plot, the sheer speed with which things unravel renders them negligible. The whip-smart script certainly helps matters.
Ezban and Blaszak have confidence in their material, and it shows. Fans of brain-scrambling sci-fi that overcomes budgetary constraints with sheer ingenuity (see: Looper, Primer, Donnie Darko, The Endless, Predestination, Freaks) will find a lot to love here. This thing moves, but it’s not all adrenaline. The filmmakers scrutinize the meanings of ownership, identity, and destiny itself. It’s impossible to single out a performance in the top-notch ensemble cast. Each character arc is fleshed out, despite the fact that the narrative takes leaps through time (and, perhaps, logic).
When his friend discovers him surrounded by mutilated bodies, a character shrugs: “Big picture? It’s for the better.” Parallel presents a rarity these days: an intelligent science fiction film brimming with wit, one that’s markedly superior to the plethora of clones oversaturating streaming services. In a parallel dimension, perhaps, most movies are this well-made. Watch Parallel, and then watch it again to untangle all of its little nuances.
"…an intelligent science fiction film brimming with wit..."