Science Fiction has grown in recent years from just being a specific genre to the status now that other genres use Sci-Fi as the backdrop for the story without being overly depended on it.
Examples such as Sci-Fi Noir with Blade Runner or Sci-Fi Horror with Alien show that science fiction can be the foundation without being the ultimate focus of the story line.
Add to this trend 5ive Days to Midnight, a murder mystery with a futuristic twist. J.T. Neumeyer (Timothy Hutton) is a college physics professor that is trying to rebuild his life after the death of his wife. Actually, he was widowed ten years ago, on the birthday of his daughter Jesse (Gage Golightly).
Things are beginning to look up for JT, he is dating seriously again, a pretty insurance agent Claudia (Kari Matchett) and his job teaching quantum physics is rewarding. He is also blessed with Jesse, a bright, resourceful girl any father would be proud of.
While visiting the grave of his wife on the anniversary of her death a strange briefcase appears bearing his name. When he figures out how to open it he finds the police file detailing his own murder, an event that will take place five days from now.
The briefcase is not made from metal but an advanced carbon polymer that is decades ahead of current technology. JT sets out to solve is own murder before it can happen. He finally convinces the homicide detected that was listed in the folder, Irwin Sikorski (Randy Quaid).
What follows in this made for television mini series is a fast moving mystery that held my attention and kept me wondering until the end.
What really worked for me with 5ive Days To Midnight is that the technology behind getting the briefcase was a McGuffin in the truest Hitchcock sense. We, the audience, never needs to now how, we are caught up in the repercussions.
If 5ive Days To Midnight was a typical science fiction the story would have been muddied by the technical details. It would have gotten in way of the mystery.
I found it similar in this to the theatrical film Frequency where the how was not important, it was the affect the strange occurrence had on the principle players. Instead we get a good, solid story that just happens to be based on a science fiction standard, time travel.
There are plenty of red herrings to keep the audience’s attention focused on the details. The twists may be somewhat predictable in retrospect but I was able to suspend belief enough while watching to enjoy 5ive Days To Midnight.
The 5ive Days To Midnight cast was well chosen for their roles here.
Timothy Hutton is one of those solidly talented actors who tend to pop up in the least likely roles. He has been plying his craft for over a quarter of a century, usually playing the everyday man that the audience can instantly identify with.
In 5ive Days To Midnight that was extremely important. Rather than casting an actor that would come across too much like the stereotypical physics professor Hutton lets us understand what this man is going though.
Randy Quaid is another of this type of actor. We know him and the characters he presents; he is the guy next door, the one that drags off to work, looking forward to that beer when the job is done.
With his character he looks the part of the detail oriented homicide detective. He needs to tie up all the loose ends and is actually intrigued that a man has a police folder that is dated five days in the future but tests to be over fifty years old.
Gage Golightly is fully professional despite her tender years. She has a pivotal part in 5ive Days To Midnight and handles some fairly tough scenes with talent and believability.
All too often an actor this young tends to overact in tense scenes but with Golightly she can reign the moment in at just the right point to prevent 5ive Days To Midnight from becoming a melodrama.
Michael W. Watkins, the director of 5ive Days To Midnight, is no stranger to off beat television. His credits include such shows as Quantum Leap, X-Files, Millennium and CSI.
He has a great eye for detail, not often found even in theatrical releases, the little plot points are often hidden in plain view, requiring subsequent viewing to catch them all. This is of paramount importance for a mystery.
You want to be able to look back and kick yourself saying ‘that’s it, it fits now’. Watkins paces 5ive Days To Midnight in the style of a good old fashion mystery, each person a perspective suspect, no one is really who they seem.
There are wild cares a-plenty to keep you guessing. He never lets the briefcase become too important, it is there, JT proved that it’s contents are real and he can’t stop to think about anything other than survival for himself and his daughter.
Watkins doesn’t let JT believe too fast, he builds up to that, allowing JT to believe bringing us along for the ride.
Artisan did 5ive Days To Midnight up right. While many studios would give less attention to a made for television flick they treated it better than those other studios do their best films.
The Dolby 5.1 audio is crystal clear. The use of the rear speakers is mostly for ambience but every so often they let out with a little surprise or two.
The video is mixed as anamorphic 1.78:1. The color balance is excellent; the contrast between the numerous light/dark juxtapositions is without defect.
The critical first and last episodes of 5ive Days To Midnight feature a commentary with Director Michael Watkins and Director of Photography Joel Ransom. They go into the typical production detail but are at least interesting to listen to.
There are several featurettes presented including one on the fractures in time that provides the science fiction details the hard core Sci-Fi will crave. There is also a look ‘remixing reality’ that takes on the inevitable question of can you change the future.
There is another featurette that looks closely at the event used in the story to prove the briefcase was real. These little extras tended to fill in some of the gaps nicely.
In all 5ive Days To Midnight is a better than average show but do yourself a favor and watch 5ive Days To Midnight as a mystery.
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