Timothy Hutton plays physics professor JT Neumeyer, a prominent professor and widow who is very close to his daughter. One her birthday he and his daughter go to visit his wife’s grave and discovers a thin silver brief case only a few feet away that shows up seemingly from thin air. He takes it home out of curiosity and tucks it away, but the curiosity gets the best of him. He opens it and discovers a group of files showing pictures of his death and newspapers clippings. First declaring this as a practical joke from one of his students or colleagues, he sets it aside, but as the days progress, the events in the files play out slowly but surely, and now convinced that he’ll die in five days, tries to find a way to prevent himself from dying and must change his destiny. Plus, he must also find out who out of his friends, family, or colleagues will murder him.
It’s an original concept, I’ll give it that, and for a movie that originally aired on the Sci Fi channel, a channel now known for really bad science fiction monster movies, it’s really original. Great underrated actor Timothy Hutton drives the film with his very good performance as the vulnerable and desperate doctor anxiously trying to discover who kills him. Within the time period of the story we’re introduced to a series of characters and red herrings including Neumeyer’s girlfriend who is discovered to have mob ties, his best friend who is going broke, his eccentric student who hates him for failing him, his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend who happens to be a mob boss and wants JT dead (see how that works out?), and his daughter (Gage Golightly) who seems like an impossibility, but you never really know, along with a lot of other minor characters who may or may not show up later on.
The questions you’ll ask yourself throughout the story is, who kills him? who sent the briefcase? and is it from the future or another planet? We’re given a sense of desperation and immediacy within the counting down and the investigating, the futuristic murder mystery make this a unique story to watch and I was interested all the way through. The notion that any one of these people could have killed JT makes for some claustrophobic fare and the dark and dreary setting which our story is set upon doesn’t make us feel any more at ease. Surely, as the clues add up one by one, the story becomes more and more tense and gripping, and the groups of writers create one really unique murder mystery with twists and turns every which way.
Despite my feedback regarding the concept, it is all the while derivative, and that’s an understatement, and what’s worse is there’s plenty of room for tension, suspense, and great bits on philosophy, time travel and all plains of the concept they’re dealing with, but the screenwriters miss their chances. There’s the butterfly effect in which changing time could lead to altering outcomes with the characters, but the writers cop out, then there’s the result of the changing of events which the writers cop out on. If, in fact, JT was to die, there’d be a reason for it, and for the person who sent it to him was smart enough to send him the case, they should also be smart enough to know that dying is just part of fate and by changing that, you also change the scope of many things far and wide.
The cast is comprised mostly of second rate actors with the exception of Hutton who tries his best at the lead role but ultimately fails towards the end of the film as he manages to go way over the top with his emotional scenes and never sold his desperation toward surviving for his daughter.There’s also Randy Quaid who is quite bland and one-dimensional as the cliché shady mysterious crusty investigator we’ve seen over a thousand times, and Angus McFayden who is the worst of the characters as the over the top mob boss Roy Bremmer. Watch for his really bad scenes as he attempts to inflict depth into his character but comes off as just laughable. It’s all just ultimately lost and pissed away halfway through as the plot is segued into the benign plot featuring McFayden which takes away from the actual reason why we’re watching.
“Stay tuned for the shocking last minutes to 5 Days to Midnight” the Sci-Fi channel boasts which never usually works on me, but I was rather interested to see where this was developing. But, unfortunately it was all just hype as usually is the case. I was expecting that Neumeyer’s daughter would accidentally shoot him causing his death, and that we never got to see who sent the briefcase, but it’s all pretty much explained in the end and nothing of the sort happens. Also, the writers cop out yet again by never explaining what happened, what would have happened and worst of all, we never do find out who kills JT, so the writers and director cop out on the audience by just saying “it’s a happy ending, we don’t need to know what happened”. It’s a great concept so it sucks that it falls apart from the seams halfway through becoming so routine and cliché. The writers never give this story and concept a chance to spread its wings and just keep it down to mediocre level almost as if they’re not trying.
There could have been so much more to draw on here, and they never want to explore other possibilities, and are mostly comprised of uneventful occurrences, very slim character development, and so much dialogue, everything is just up in the air even in the final moments. Everything halfway through is just so bogged down that there just wasn’t any use in having it run for over three hours. I really wanted and hoped for an ironic, witty, and shocking ending beneath the muddled plot and droning dialogue, but alas we’re not given anything but an obligatory and rather disappointing happy ending that is also yet another of the numerous cop outs on part of the writers who could have used the ending for a twist or sick irony. While “5ive days to Midnight” has the advent of originality with an original concept, and is driven by Timothy Hutton’s performance, it’s ultimately as bland as pound cake, and drags on to three hours without a single memorable event and a disappointing ending that defines the term “anti-climactic.”