USA 2000

Reviewed by Tom Tunney


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

1969. Frank Sullivan, a fireman and ham radio enthusiast, lives with his wife Julia and six-year-old son John in New York.

In the same house 30 years later the adult John, a policeman, sets up his late father's long neglected ham radio. Due to unusual climactic conditions, he is able to contact Frank, sitting in the same room with the same radio 30 years before. John tells his father that he will die the next day in a fire. Forewarned, Frank survives the blaze. But his survival has one unforeseen consequence: the unsolved 1969 case of a local serial murderer - which John is working on - now has 10 victims instead of three, one of whom is John's mother, Julia.

Briefed by John from the 1999 police files, Frank sets out to stop the mystery killer striking again. He saves one would-be victim by talking to her all night. The killer, Jack Shepard, a policeman, realises he is being followed when Frank zeroes in on his next victim. Shepard beats Frank up and steals his driving licence, which he leaves beside his victim's body. Frank becomes the police's prime suspect. John tells him to hide his wallet (which contains the killer's fingerprints) in the house. John retrieves it 30 years on and is able to identify Shepard as the killer.

Back in the 1969, Frank is arrested. After being threatened by Shepard in his cell, Frank escapes, pursued by the killer. Shepard appears to drown during a fight with Frank at the waterfront.

Later, John tells Frank that Julia is still due to be killed by Shepard. As they speak, Shepard appears: as a young man in 1969, he tries to kill Frank; and as an older man in 1999, he tries to kill John. In 1999, an older version of Frank turns up and shoots Shepard dead. Back in 1969, Shepard disintegrates.

In 1999 Frank, John and their family enjoy a game of baseball.


Frequency is the story of a father, a son and a holy ghost. The spiritual dimension of director Gregory Holbit's entertaining, if baffling film takes the form of sunspots in the night sky which allow detective John Sullivan to communicate with his father Frank 30 years ago. This intriguing idea - which sees information rather than people journey though time - sets Frequency apart from other time-travelling movies such as Time after Time (1979) to the Back to the Future series. But like these films, Frequency has its share of sly ironies which play on the audience's knowledge of the course of history: the adult John, for instance, gives his brother 30 years advance notice to invest in e-commerce; while back in 1969 Frank imagines mobile phones to look like "big field radios they have in the army".

But such references to contemporary reality are rare - perhaps an indication of the inherently preposterous nature of Toby Emmerich's screenplay. Despite a commendation from physics professor Brian Greene - who appears in the film, first as a young man in 1969, then 30 years later - it's difficult not to notice certain dramatic flaws in Frequency's speculative narrative logic. As the parallel realities pile up like successive drafts of a developing screenplay - John is able to tamper with the past by forewarning his father of key events - the tension drains from the film: if John is able to change the course of given events - you're left thinking - everything, including the danger posed by serial killer Shepard, is open for revision, for erasure (in his climatic fight with Frank in 1969, Shepard literally disintegrates). For the most part, Holbit distracts us from the manifest absurdities of his plot through taut and pacey direction. Having directed episodes of television's NYPD Blue, he's far better on the mechanics of police procedure than he is on the dizzying implications of his time-travelling scenario. There's also a impressive attention to detail - Frank's cigarette burn on the table, for instance, appears suddenly 30 years later - which suggests Frequency has at least superficially been well thought out.

Ultimately though, for all its multiplying versions of history and its chaos-theory approach to narrative causality, Frequency is more about preserving the past than changing it. Like Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married, Frequency evokes the past as an innocent, more wholesome time. The scenes with Frank might be set in 1969 but there's little indication of the turbulent social change then taking place. First glimpsed in an all-night bar, Shepard, the serial killer with designs on John's mother, is the malevolent threat to the stability of the Shepard family unit. Having blotted Shepard from history, John recaptures the family values of his childhood in the film's final scene - an idyllic multi-generational game of baseball. This may smack of wish fulfilment, but then idea that the scene could be one of many alternative realities is never too far away to upset the tidy sense of closure.


Gregory Hoblit
Hawk Koch
Gregory Hoblit
Bill Carraro
Toby Emmerich
Toby Emmerich
Director of Photography
Alar Kivilo
David Rosenbloom
Production Designer
Paul Eads
Music/Music Conductor
Michael Kamen
©New Line Productions, Inc.
Production Company
New Line Cinema presents a Gregory Hoblit film
Executive Producers
Robert Shaye
Richard Saperstein
Co-executive Producer
Janis Chaskin
Associate Producer
Patricia Graf
Executive in Charge of Production
Carla Fry
Production Executive
Erik Holmberg
Production Supervisor
David Crockett
Production Controller
Paul Prokop
Production Co-ordinators
Lori Greenberg
Emily Glatter
NY Unit:
Kimberly N. Fajen
Unit Production Managers
Bill Carraro
Matthew Hart
Location Managers
Fred Kamping
NY Unit:
Samuel Hutchins
Location Unit Manager
NY Unit:
Troy Thomas
Executive in Charge of:
Jody Levin
Rick Reynolds
Assistant Directors
Jeffrey Steven Authors
Rick Kush
Darrin Brown
Janet Zdyb
NY Unit:
Rob Albertell
Gregory G. Hale
Script Supervisors
Samantha Armstrong
NY Unit:
Linda Haftel
Amanda Mackey Johnson
Cathy Sandrich
Robin D. Cook
Camera Operators
Angelo Colavecchia
Candide Franklyn
Angel Gonzalez
Henri Fiks
John Hobson
NY Unit:
Bruce MacCallum
Wescam Operator
NY Unit:
David Norris
Visual Effects
Rhythm & Hues Studios
Special Effects
Martin Malivoire
Kaz Kobielski
Jason Board
Gary Kleinsteuber
Daniel S. Gibson
Gordin Brothers
Peter Sissakis
Arthur Langevin
NY Unit Co-ordinator:
Steve Kirshoff
NY Unit Foreman:
Wilfred Caban
NY Unit:
Carmen M. Campolo Jr
Fred Kraemer Jr
Robert J. Scupp
Graphic Artists
Steven Csepe
Nigel Churcher
Art Directors
Dennis Davenport
NY Unit:
John Kasarda
Set Designer
Elis Lam
Set Decorators
Gordon Sim
NY Unit:
Beth Kushnick
Key Scenic Artist
Cameron S. Brooke
Storyboard Artist
Ronald Hobbs
Costume Designers
Elisabetta Beraldo
Arthur Rowsell
Costume Supervisors
Cori Burchell
NY Unit:
Donna M. Maloney
Barrett P. Hong
Key Make-up Artist
Donald J. Mowat
Make-up Artists
Edelgard K. Pfluegl
NY Unit:
Leslie Fuller
Michelle Bruno
Special Make-up Department Head
John Caglione Jr
Key Hairstylist
Jennifer O'Halloran
Janice Miller
NY Unit:
Verne Caruso
Main Title Sequence Design/Production
Goodspot L.L.C.
Pacific Title
Opening Rescue Sequence Music
J. Peter Robinson
Michael Kamen
Robert Elhai
Brad Warnaar
Jonathan Sacks
Blake Neely
Peter Tomashek
Music Executive/
Paul Broucek
Score Producers
Michael Kamen
Christopher Brooks
Music Editor
Tom Kramer
Music Recording
Joel Iwataki
Bobby Fernandez
Music Mixer
Stephen McLaughlin
Sound Design
Steve Boeddeker
Sound Mixers
Douglas Ganton
NY Unit:
James J. Sabat
NY Unit:
J.J. Sabat
Re-recording Mixers
Michael Semanick
Gary Rizzo
Gary Summers
Ronald G. Roumas
Supervising Sound Editor
Tom Bellfort
Dialogue Editors
Claire Graybill
Lindakay Brown
Sound Effects Editors
Teresa Eckton
Christopher Scarabosio
Tami Treadwell
NY Recordist:
Bobby Johanson
Robert Deschaine
Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
Dennie Thorpe
Jana Vance
Tony Eckert
Bruce Lacey
Karen Wilson
Fire Department Technical Consultant
Thomas P. Ryan
NYPD Technical Advisers
Bill Clark
Bill Oldham
Physics Technical Consultant
Brian Greene
Stunt Co-ordinators
G.A. Aguilar
Steve Lucescu
Helicopter Pilot
Al Cerullo
Dennis Quaid
Frank Sullivan
Jim Caviezel
John Sullivan
André Braugher
Satch DeLeon
Elizabeth Mitchell
Julia Sullivan
Noah Emmerich
Gordo Hersch
Shawn Doyle
Jack Shepard
Jordan Bridges
Graham Gibson
Melissa Errico
Samantha Thomas
Daniel Henson
Johnny Sullivan aged 6
Stephen Joffe
Gordo Hersch aged 8
Jack McCormack
Commander O'Connell
Peter MacNeill
Butch Foster
Michael Cera
Gordie Jr aged 10
Marin Hinkle
Sissy Clark
Richard Sali
Chuck Hayes
Nesbitt Blaisdell
Fred Shepard
Joan Heney
Laura Shepard
Jessica Meyer
teenage runaway
Kirsten Bishopric
Carrie Reynolds
Rocco Sisto
Daryl Adams
Rosemary DeAngelis
Mrs Finelli
Dick Cavett
Brian Greene
Melissa Fitzgerald
Linda Hersch
John DiBenedetto
Con Ed supervisor
Terry Serpico
Brian Smyj
Con Ed workers
Nicole Brier
stoned teenage girl
Brantley Bush
young intern
David Huband
lounge bartender
Timothy Brown
Billy, roof man
Chuck Margiotta
Gino, pedestal man
Karen Glave
Lanni DeLeon
Frank McAnulty
desk sergeant
Derek Aasland
stoned man 1
Jim McAleese
Cozy bartender
Catherine Burdon
young woman 1
Jennifer Baxter
young woman 2
Desmond Campbell
Hector, forensic tech
Danny Johnson
Colm Magner
uniformed cops
Brigitte Kingsley
bar waitress
Tucker Robin
Frank Jr
Entertainment Film Distributors Ltd
10,661 feet
118 minutes 28 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
Colour/Prints by
DeLuxe Films Labs
Super 35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011