(Phillip J. Roth, USA, 1994)


One of the wonderful things about extravagant tales of time travel is that they realise a fantasy which few forms of fiction, and no form of real life, can allow: they make a lone individual the literal centre of the universe.

In Phillip J. Roth’s APEX, time traveller Sinclair (Richard Keats) is shot a hundred years backward from 2073 on a fairly routine mission. When he returns to his time he finds a different world, hideous, war-ravaged and fatally diseased. Time-tripping has introduced an accident and changed the course of destiny – and Sinclair himself is that accident.

This is a fairly tacky B movie whose plot makes very little conventional sense. So what? ‘Production values’ and plausible plots are highly overrated, mystified commodities in the film business. The ephemeral pleasures of APEX lie elsewhere: in the triangular ‘time windows’ which appear for the hero to dive through at key moments; in the earnest exchanges of pop philosophy regarding identity and destiny; in the marvellous love intrigue that presents Sinclair with two radically different versions of his wife Natasha (Lisa Ann Russell) across two parallel worlds.

APEX puts bits of many SF movies together in an engaging way. There are the ‘sterilization units’, assassin androids straight out of the Terminator movies. A hero who confronts an unrecognisable former self, as in Total Recall (1990). An aggro team of muscular resistance fighters mixing several races and genders, closely resembling the gang from Aliens (1986). A post-apocalyptic landscape courtesy of Mad Max 2 (1981) and its many imitations.

Where the film breaks new ground, however, is in the forthright dedication placed by the director in the closing credits: “Theresa – it was all for you – Love P.”.

© Adrian Martin July 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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