5ive Days to Midnight


Director: Michael W. Watkins

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The two-disc dvd set for 5ive Days to Midnight originated as a 2004 television mini-series. It starts out really well. A professor (Timiothy Hutton) receives a mysterious slim briefcase made of an unusual material. When he finally gets it opened, it contains newspaper clippings, police records, & notes about the professor's never-solved murder.

The briefcase seems to have come from two or three decades in the future, but the murder is going to happen in five days. The mystery of it is quite captivating & the acting is damned good for a cable mini-series.

5ive Days to MidnightThe clues sent him from the future leaves everyone in his life a possible suspect. Is he going to be killed by his brother-in-law who has gone bankrupt & thinks he can regain wealth if his wife's brother is put out of the way? Is it his new girlfriend (Kari Matchett) who is a former gangster's moll, or will it be her ex-boyfriend? Or will it be the professor's Rain Man type genius student who believes that if the professor doesn't die the world may end.

As the hours tick by & incidents predicted by the dossier begin to come true, even police detective Dennis Quaid begins to believe in the messages from the future.

The first episode is great & the next two episodes are not bad, so the first disc is a high-tension suspense-filled sci-fi mystery. Episode by episode it gets weaker & weaker & the climax stinks. A better story arch would not have required this alleged genius-protagonist to make so many stupid decisions, most of which were made to keep the story artificially going forward, not because anyone with a lick of sense would've made such decisions.

The story furthermore implies a certain inevitability -- the one life he saved was killed the next day to restore the timeline; the attempt to get out of town altogether fails because no matter how many airplanes he gets on, something will ground them. Yet he does change the timeline, nothing was inevitable, & there were no repurcussions beyond happily ever after.

The episodes throw around the idea of Physics Genius so often that one expected at least one clever paradox out of the damned tale. But conveying genius with a creative team that is dunce-like or talentless isn't all that likely to happen. The best one can expect is a title that spells Five "5ive" & nothing that happens will be swifter than that retarded gem.

The main problem with this mini-series is it never actually checks off any of the potential suspects. Each episode should've narrowed the field until the killer is obvious then revealed how it was all along None Of The Above. Instead, every episode has to be kept rather static so that all possible killers are still on the menu in the last episode. Not even small details get resolved until the finale. That means the final episode is way too busy-busy cluttered-up trying to resolve all the plot-threads at once while at the same time revealing the killer as None Of The Above so that nothing that happens until then even matters.

A better set of scripts would've reduced the number of likely killers so that a big story could be more focused in the climax. Ending badly rather spoiled the whole thing, though I was enjoying it until the last episode which was simply not any good.

The acting is surprisingly good & by the actors' conviction some viewers may be fooled into thinking they saw a good story -- so long as no one's actually thinking or it will boil down to "Hey wait, that isn't even slightly logical."

The story is further hampered by the fact that none of it would've happened if the material had never been sent back in time. Most everyone's motives are connected to the briefcase of clues -- the Rain Man student deduced from the briefcase content that doom will occur if the professor fails to die at the proper moment in the time-line; the bankrupt brother-in-law wants the briefcase from the future in order to cash in on its artificial metal technology; & the actual killer turned out to be someone the professor would never have met if not for the stuff from the future.

As it turns out, it was the professor's little daughter who sent the briefcase back in time so that her daddy could save himself, but since it couldn't've happened if the briefcase hadn't been sent back at all, really the story has a logic lapse so big that there was no way any of it would've ever been necessary & the real "fix" for the situation was to never send the briefcase back to begin with.

The essential illogicality may not have been so obvious when this mini-series was aired with enough time between episodes that everyone could kinda forget the details of how the set-up was supposed to work. But seeing it all on two discs in two days, the fact that the "surprise" ending pretty much nixed the necessity of sending the files back in time becomes rather too obvious. And a miniseries that started out well ended by revealing itself as the sort of second-rate writing one usually experiences from dunderhead miniseries writers.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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