I saw Frequency in the theatre when it came out in 2000. I was 12 at the time, and even then I knew how deep and amazing this movie was, even though I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on. I understood the basic idea of it, but couldn’t really grasp the entire concept. The last time I had seen this movie was in 2004, and I knew I needed to include it on this list of movies I consider the greatest ever made. Before I do one of these entries, I rewatch the movie, so it’s fresh on my mind. I just finished watching this movie for the first time in ten years, and in fact the credits are still rolling and I can hear the music, and I understand this movie even better now than I did when I was younger. And had I have seen more recently, it would have been the first movie I reviewed for this series.
The film is about John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel), an NYC police officer, whose father, Frank Sullivan (Dennis Quaid), a fire fighter, died in a warehouse fire 30 years prior. The day before the 30th anniversary of his father’s death, he happens upon his old HAM Radio. He turns it on and there’s someone on the other end. At first, John talks about how he can’t believe that anyone still uses HAM Radios, but soon realizes that he’s talking to his father in the past on the exact same radio. Frank, of course, doesn’t believe him, but John tells him how he died the next day, and how he could have survived if he had “just gone the other way”.
The next day, Frank is at the fire station when there’s an emergency call to the very warehouse the crazy person on the HAM claiming to be his son said he would die that day. He is clearly very nervous rising up to the warehouse. But he runs into the building and finds a girl who is unconscious. He goes to carry her out and sees two different ways to go. One is just a smoke-filled hallway, and the other is a fire-soaked door. He starts running down the smokey hallway until he remembers, “If you had just gone the other way. . .”, so he turns around and head through the fire door, where he finds an easy escape, surviving the fire.
When Frank gets home he solders “I AM STILL HERE, CHIEF” into the desk the HAM is on. Frank and John do a bit of catching up.
While most movies would end the story there, making saving his father the plot of the film, this is just the beginning of the story. Saving Frank causes some unexpected, and unwanted, changes to history. At the time that Frank died originally, there was a killer loose, but he only killed three people. John was working the case in present day. The day after he saves his father, he finds that suddenly the Nightingale Killer had ten victims instead of three, one of which being his mother.
So instead of just being a sci-fi/drama, it’s also a suspense thriller crime movie. Instead of cramming it all down our throats and leaping around going, “Look at me! I am multigenre!”, it paces it out smoothly, and leaves you guessing as yo what is going to happen next. The ending surprised me, even though I’d already seen it before. The way everything gets resolved is total brilliant writing. It’s one movie I can watch over and over and still be entertained and surprised each time.
Update on 28 September 2017: Yes, as you’ve probably suspected, this is the movie that was the basis for the popular TV series. One of my friends read my review recently and asked if I’d seen the series and I was confused. A couple years after I initially wrote this review they adapted it into a television series. It’s really good and I highly recommend it. Here it is on Netflix.