Soundwave Review: A Near Pitch-Perfect, Suspenseful Popcorn Thriller!

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If you're interested in loosely sci-fi stories with an almost super-heroic element, then Soundwave makes the right kind of noise.

The teen-indie thriller isn't exactly reinventing the wheel here with its premise of a young inventor creating world-altering technology that puts his life and those whom he loves in peril when a treacherous organization wants to get their hands on it.

However, with those classic elements, the film working within its means and budget as best as it can, and a proficient cast, Soundwave is a fun, popcorn thriller with a charming retro vibe.

Soundwave- Ben Listens - Tall

From the musical score to Ben and Antonio's profession, and the coloring, posturing, and more, Soundwave has such a strong 80s-90s vibe that it'll leave you wondering what the exact timeline for the film is.

It has a similar style of some of those suspense thrillers of yesteryear too, and it adds to the film's appeal.

It's not the only thing the film plays fast and loose with; the science and mechanizations of Ben's unique soundwave frequency machine that picks up on conversations from the past is a bit dodgy and handwavey.

The idea behind it is that the soundwaves, from all of the conversations we have ever had before, don't vanish but rather they're out there in the ether. And Ben's machine, which looks a bit like a bomb vest with dials on it, can gather and play all of these soundwaves and frequencies.

Soundwave - Frequencies

The movie opts for a creative method of differentiating the past soundwaves Ben listens to from the present with a saturated filter and still images, with voiceovers.

It's reminiscent of comic book panels, and while it was a creative way to work around the budget, no doubt, it's a definite acquired taste. It wasn't something I was a fan of, but I understood the reasoning.

But let's get back to frequency.

Ben's motivation for creating this technology was so that he could figure out whatever happened to his father, who disappeared back in 1999 and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Soundwave - Making Ends Meet

You almost expected this movie to bite a bit from the sci-fi thriller, Frequency, and have Ben get in touch with his father, or at the very least get the answers that he sought, but that element of the story was left dangling.

The science behind it all was a bit sketchy, but Soundwave gets kudos for not trying too hard to techno-jargon its way through selling it, and instead, delved right into the story, the machine, and the repercussions of its existence.

The movie was aware, not hesitating to tackle the privacy concerns and violations that come about with technology that peeks into everyone's lives indiscriminately as Ben infringed and eavesdropped on the most private of moments between anyone around him with a few twists of a nodule.

But Ben's unassuming nature made him endearing and well-meaning even when he displayed some concerning stalkerish behaviors with his love interest, Katie.

Soundwave - Eavesdropping

She wasted no time reciting back his actions and having him process that they were, in fact, stalkerish, as he listened in on her therapy sessions and conversations with friends, and Ben had the right mind to recognize how his behavior was an issue and a violation.

But of course, she breezed past it and forgave him quicker than warranted. Instead, her interest shifted to how his technology could help her remember her mother's final performance before she died.

Ben's understanding of the power he and his tech wielded and ramifications of it gradually expanded as the movie progressed.

One of his most profound and insightful quotes was one he directed at Katie when he stated that "maybe just because we can hear everything that doesn't mean that we should."

Ben on the Run - Soundwave

Of course, despite his failure to consider the ways and extent of his invading on people's privacy, no matter how innocent and innocuous it was for him, he was conscious of the power he and his technology wielded.

It was evident he was a smart kid, and without him, his guardian Antonio's little repair shop probably wouldn't have lasted as long as it did (a minor miracle in itself given how outdated it was).

He was a mechanically inclined genius, but he proved to be street and people savvy when he recognized the motives behind people wanting his device.

Detective Macy's intentions were warped, and he was the one who set things in motion.

Macy - Soundwave

Ben picked up some extra cash helping Macy solve murder cases with his device. Although he was exchanging his tech services for money, Soundwave established that Ben and Antonio needed the money to make ends meet.

They were living paycheck to paycheck in an obsolete business while facing eviction notices, so it set the tone and added some context to how Ben operates.

He needed money, but he also had some morals. When Macy, who was only looking for a way to make a quick buck, manipulated Ben and attempted to capitalize on him and his invention, he saw through it.

Ben and Antonio - Soundwave

He called Macy out on it, too, knowing that the only concern for Macy wasn't so much doing good but trying to get rich off of his technology. Macy was his entryway into having ulterior motives, and Frank took it from there.

As a villain, he easily could've come across as an exaggerated caricature in a piece like this. Fortunately, Paul Tassone was the perfect blend of quietly sinister and menacing without being cartoonish.

In fact, there were many ways that the acting could've gone off the rails and veered toward hyperbolic and cheesy, but the cast was not only capable but understated with their performances, and it ground the movie and sold the plot.

Hunter Doohan didn't overact in the least bit when he easily could have, and he sold some emotional beats better than others, namely those moments with Katie Owsley.

Over his Head - Soundwave

Although, there were times when the decidedly chill and lax Ben didn't have the space to react to some of the biggest climactic moments of the movie.

The dire, life and death situation he found himself in, while felt by the viewer as the movie ratcheted up the suspense and thrill of it all didn't always appear to register with Ben.

And it wasn't as if he shut down or was operating on auto-pilot, which would've been a valid way of portraying the character, given the circumstances, because he had those soft, empathetic, and emotional notes while directing that toward Katie.

The hint of romance between Katie and Ben was quaint, and there wasn't much that required the actors to sell their chemistry, so it wasn't something of which you felt passionate about either way.

Katie - Soundwave

Katie was a sympathetic character, and we saw a bit of her through Ben's eyes, so it made her endearing and his draw to her sensible.

She had depth as a character with her troubled past and demons that the movie let speak for itself rather than spoonfeeding to us, thank the heavens.

And it was understandable how Katie became Ben's partner in crime, so to speak, as quickly and easily as it happened, even though she didn't know him well.

Not only did it make you smile when she would substitute his "I" for "we," but it was believable and true to character for what we knew of her in a short time.

Katie Listens - Soundwave

Katie was a character who longed to be seen and craved human connection, so when faced with a sweet young man who saw her for who she was and liked her still, she was prepared to go to hell and back with him.

In some ways, we got more background on her than we did our lead. But maybe it was deliberate, as it felt as though Soundwave was treated like Ben's origin story, and it was strongly hinted at with the movie's final moments.

The movie was left with an opening for a sequel with our Peter Parker-esque lead. If so, then it makes some of the dangling threads bearable.

Frequencies - Soundwave

Of course, if the film was intended as a one-off, then it had a satisfactory conclusion. We don't learn much about the film's antagonist or the organization that he works alongside.

And taking him and them down hinged on some tinkering with the soundwave machine and expanding its capabilities in ways that he had not considered or explored before.

But I wish we had a deeper understanding of the machine and the full extent of its abilities -- that the machine's powers were fleshed out.

Just as Frank and his cybersecurity operation and nefarious underdealings required more substance and context as well.

Ben on the Rooftop - Soundwave

Soundwave barely scratched the surface of what it could have explored. But nonetheless, it was a cracking watch.

If you haven't watched this fun, award-winning indie film, you can catch it on most streaming networks: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft Play, and Vudu.

If you have watched it, hit the comments below and let us know your thoughts!

Review

Editor Rating: 3.7 / 5.0
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Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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