Review: 'Needle In A Timestack' a Sci-Fi Love Story

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday October 15, 2021

'Needle In A Timestack'
'Needle In A Timestack'  (Source:Lionsgate)

Writer/director John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave") offers something very different with his feature-film directorial debut "Needle in a Timestack."

Based on sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg's short story, the film takes place in a future where time-travel is real and only affordable to a lucky few. There are "rules" around what you can and cannot do if you get the chance to go back or forward in time, but things can and do change, and this causes time waves that alter everyone's reality.

But when those alterations occur, panic can set it. What if it changes everything you know and love? And when it does, the memory of the other reality only exists for a short time, and then it fades. What do you do when you love someone who may or may not be there the next time a time shift occurs?

This is the basis for "Timestack," which takes a high-concept sci-fi idea and uses it to tell a simple, yet beautiful love story.

Nick (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Janine (Cynthia Erivo) are a happily married couple — both successful (he's an architect, she's a photographer) who are madly in love. But there are some ghosts from their past that threaten to change their future — notably Janine's ex-husband (Orlando Bloom), who is using time warps in an attempt to change the past and get her back.

As panic and jealousy take over, Nick decides to spend his life savings on a trip back in time so he can ensure that his relationship with Janine stays in place. But will this be the best thing for the couple in the long run? Are they truly destined to be together? Or will altering the past, create changes he can't escape from?

Once you get past some of the hard-to-believe logistics of the time-travel conceit, "Needle in a Timestack" is a compelling drama about people certain they know what their destinies are. It touches on jealousy, obsession, and what it means to change the past without the permission of others. It's all fairly fascinating, even though the movie itself is — at its core — a simple love story.

But that's its strength.

Ridley has crafted a gorgeous looking film and filled it with beautiful and talented actors, including Frieda Pinto as Nick's ex-girlfriend. There is a loveliness to the dialogue and ideas, even if the film doesn't hit as emotionally hard as it could have.

It's nice to see something so original, populated by terrific talent all around. In an era of remakes and endless superhero chapters, these are the films that should stand out and be sought out. In a way, these are the needles in the timestack we need to search for.

"Needle in a Timestack" premieres on VOD October 15th, and on Blu-ray and DVD October 19th.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.