Taken as a whole, the Canadian sci-fi thriller “Radius” shouldn’t work. From the quiet set-up to the plethora of jarring twists, the movie is nearly unrecognizable by the end. It’s a rough watch at times, but with serviceable performances and a killer narrative, “Radius” rides on its formal strengths more than anything.
At first, directing team Caroline take the “Twilight Zone” approach to storytelling: start with a mystifying premise and explain it in bits and pieces. Around the midpoint, though, that changes. It begins with the amnesiac Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) waking up after a car crash. He searches for help, but everyone around him dies until he meets Jane (Charlotte Sullivan).
The rest of the movie is best watched cold, but there are spoilers ahead. After some brutal trial and error, Liam finds that anyone within a 50-foot radius of him dies. Labrèche and Léonard don’t explain this phenomenon’s mechanics and they don’t need to. Liam and Jane’s relationship takes center stage instead, making “Radius” something else entirely. The movie’s strength is its story. Its beats are careful and logical, even if they seem out-of-the-blue at the time.
In remembering-your-recent-past movies like this, it’s hard to avoid flashbacks. They’re easy to to integrate and mostly justified. Thankfully, “Radius” doesn’t take this easy path. It lets Liam scrabble for clues with little help or reward. It isn’t until the last half that flashbacks become important and even then they’re not overbearing. With or without that, however, the attentive viewer will see the final revelations coming. I mean, how many times at the beginning of a movie can you emphasize one small detail before its importance becomes apparent? At least once every two scenes, if “Radius” is your metric.
The performances, though, are nothing to write home about. Klattenhoff and Sullivan are good enough, but they’re uninteresting. Both have backgrounds in TV and it shows. Klattenhoff is excessively grave, Sullivan is always worried, and Jane’s husband Sam (Brett Donahue) does nothing but ask questions. More than anything, they’re functional.
Like “The Void,” another solid Canadian genre flick, “Radius” just works. Klattenhoff and Sullivan aren’t strong enough to chew the scenery, so the story takes precedence. While its parts seem disparate, they come together in just the right way. “Radius” could have been average. It just happens to work exceptionally well.