Frequency has a nifty story concept what if freak weather conditions allowed a man to talk thirty years into the past with his late father? The revelation of Jim Caviezels respondents identity is no surprise as this has been given away by the films trailer. For a time, as father and son sit around talking about baseball scores and Caviezel saves Dennis Quaids life, Frequency seems to be sliding down a long trail into sentimental feelgood drama. Indeed, this is the way that Frequency was sold the audience it brought in was more one that ritually goes to each years Academy Award nominees and regards Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as its poster children. Luckily though, this is not all that Frequency has up its sleeve and before the sentimentality starts to set in in any unwelcome way, the film takes a turn for the darker in a series of sharp dogleg twists that keep one compulsively glued right to the end. Moreover, Frequency is not merely a thriller that uses an science-fiction rationale but one that makes excellent and intelligent integral conceptual use of the science-fiction element. (Even if the rationale for what is happening is swept under the carpet with a few vague references to super-string theory and multi-dimensional geometry).
The personal alternate timeline theme has been conducted often in science-fiction (as opposed to the historical alternate history, which has not) usually to conduct unimaginative stories featuring evil mirror opposites of the continuing characters in tv series such as Star Trek (1966-9), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1992-9) and Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005 ). The late 1990s saw an upswing in the personal alternate history in films such as Too Many Ways to Be No. 1 (1997), Sliding Doors (1998), Twice Upon a Yesterday (1998), Run Lola Run (1998) and Me Myself I (1999) but conducted more as fantasy than science-fiction. The Back to the Future trilogy made good science-fiction use of the personal alternate history most notably Back to the Future Part II (1989) but Frequency is the most sophisticated variant so far.
The storys ease with the rippling changes affected is remarkably adept there is a wonderfully chill moment where Jim Caviezel turns from having saved his fathers life to find his mother has now been murdered, his wife no longer recognises him and that his good friend Andre Braugher has become sullen and battle-scarred. Gregory Hoblit directs with great subtlety. This is a film that needs several viewings to pick up many of the small, unobtrusive details and changes packed away in the background the photo with the dalmatian that keeps changing; the apparently unimportant visit to the apartment near the crime scene, which signals that the killer is dead in this timeline, something that will not be changed until Dennis Quaids apparently equally unimportant visit to the hospital to see his wife after surviving the fire.
Hoblits cross-temporal cuts are often dazzling, none the more so than the climax that has both father and son being attacked by the killer while sitting at the radio, but separated by thirty years in time, the ongoing fight in one era affecting what is happening in the other a sequence where Hoblit saves one last good surprise for the last minute outcome. The film ends on a rather traditional sentimental view that happiness in life is a united family but this is one misstep that one might otherwise forgive in the preceding pleasure of a rare and intelligent science-fiction thriller.
And just to disprove that screenwriters never amount to much on the totem pole, Frequencys screenwriter Toby Emmerich went from this to becoming the CEO of New Line Cinema in the same year. Emmerich later went onto writer a further science-fiction film with The Last Mimzy (2007).
The film was remade as the tv series Frequency (2016-7) in which the father and son have been replaced by a wife (Peyton List) talking to her late husband (Riley Smith) across time. A similar premise appeared in the film The Caller (2011) in which Rachelle Lefevre has telephone conversations across time with a disturbed woman who then starts interfering with her timeline.
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 2000 Awards).