Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Review: Dylan O’Brien Leads Intriguing Multidimensional Thriller ‘Flashback’

Flashback (previously known as Education of Fredrick Fitzell), the long-awaited film with Dylan O’Brien in the title role has finally arrived.

O’Brien plays Fred, a 30 something man coming into himself in adulthood. Hyper-fixated on the disappearance of Cindy (Maika Monroe), he reaches out to a group of old high school friends to help him uncover what happened. At the time, the drug Mercury, “merc,” was popular and passed around heavily through the school, and at first glance, it seems to be the culprit.

Fred must journey through his past from his mind where he begins unraveling dark mysteries while exploring all the possible lives he can choose to live. From there he’s faced with the question (and difficult decision) of which one to lead.

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Seeing O’Brien in such a different role compared to his most notable ones from the time period the movie was first conceived, like Teen Wolf and Maze Runner, proves that not only is he prepared to take risks, but they also pay off. As far as this generation is concerned, he’s one of the frontrunners in the race that is dangerously underused and under-appreciated.

Monroe is an incredible actress in her own right, having starred in It Follows, she has a knack for the mysterious. Overall, it’s clear Cindy is more integral to Fred than she is to the plot, despite the fact that she is a lead character. With that being said, her performance didn’t go unnoticed, and she is able to elevate O’Brien to new heights each time they flesh out another layer to the story together.

Liisa Repo-Martell’s role as Fred’s mom, Mrs. Fitzell, is another part of that film that really lends itself to the story. Though most of the time she’s seen lying in a bed due to her condition, she is able to draw so much emotion just from her expressions. Fear, bewilderment, love, frustration — she does it all.

At times the pacing feels slow, but that’s because the storyline is consistently switching centering strictly on Fred and his, well, flashbacks. Flashback is an enigmatic film that requires your undivided attention. Of course, the film doesn’t have the same intentions as a big-budget flick and because of this, the practicality makes for a compelling narrative that is able to toy with the lines of realism. Viewers can focus strictly on the story at hand that has a stellar cast to back it up.

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It could be argued that at times it feels like there are moments that feel like a flash-forward in time, but that is easily forgotten as O’Brien traverses deeper into his mind and his sense of reality continues to warp. And, honestly, with multiple interpretations, it’s up to you to decide whether he’s just a high school kid that underwent a bad trip and saw his future laid out before him, or if he succeeded at his job and settled into life with Karen.

Let’s get one thing straight. Flashback is exactly what it claims to be — a film that while it does the explaining, the explanation isn’t going to do much. This is something director Christopher MacBride excelled at. While there’s enough to draw you in because of the peculiarity and mind grappling effects, this isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal. To get the most out of the film, you may require multiple viewings, as it really does take you down a rabbit hole.

Fred proves that even though at times we think we have everything figured out, there are stepping stones that with a slight shift, can change the whole trajectory of your path. He desperately tries to hold onto the known, but by the climax, he realizes that acceptance is the key to overcoming. While it may not be a clear-cut ending, there’s a message or two engraved inside that sets Flashback up as a film in its own league entirely. Flashback is a thought-provoking, trippy, psychological thriller full of complexity. If you find yourself sticking around until the end, you may even begin to question your own sense of self.

Flashback is available on Digital and in select theaters today and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD June 8.

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Haley
Haley joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2019 and is a writer, editor, and Instagram manager. Her main fandoms are Criminal Minds, Marvel, The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, and her favorite Chris in the debate is Chris Pine. You can find her on Twitter @haleyannemiller.

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