Frequency is a 2000 American science fiction thriller drama film directed by Gregory Hoblit and distributed by New Line Cinema. It was written by Toby Emmerich. Its story follows John Sullivan, a homicide detective in New York City who accidentally discovers a cross-time radio frequency on his late father's ham radio, which allows the two to speak to each other across time. It stars Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Shawn Doyle, and Elizabeth Mitchell.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gregory Hoblit|
|Produced by||Gregory Hoblit|
|Written by||Toby Emmerich|
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Edited by||David Rosenbloom|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$68.1 million|
The film was produced by Gregory Hoblit, Hawk Koch, Toby Emmerich, and Bill Carraro and was released on April 28, 2000. It grossed $9 million during its opening weekend and $68.1 million worldwide, against a budget of $31 million. It received positive reviews and has a 70% approval rating based on 125 votes on Rotten Tomatoes.
The plot relies heavily on the shared remembrance of the 1969 World Series involving the New York Mets. In time-leaping ham radio conversations between firefighter Frank Sullivan, speaking from 1969, and his son John, speaking from 1999, discussing events in the 1969 World Series, the two come to a point of trust about the details of events and how they play out.
In October 1969, FDNY firefighter Frank Sullivan (Quaid) dies in a warehouse fire, leaving behind his wife Julia, a nurse, and six-year-old son John. 30 years later, in 1999, John, now an NYPD detective, is dumped by his girlfriend Samantha for being emotionally shut off. John's neighbor and childhood buddy, Gordo, finds a Heathkit single-sideband ham radio that once belonged to Frank, but fails to get it working. The night before the anniversary of his father's death, John is surprised to find the radio operating during an occurrence of the aurora borealis, and has a brief conversation with another man concerning the 1969 World Series, which John is able to recount in specific detail. Eventually, he realizes that the other man is his father in 1969 and tries to warn him of his impending death. The next day, while attempting to rescue a young girl, Frank remembers John's warning and manages to escape the burning warehouse. That evening, the two reconnect and learn a great deal about each others' lives.
Subsequently, John begins to notice major changes in the present: His mother Julia no longer lives at her current address, Samantha does not recognize him, and he learns that Frank died in 1989 from lung cancer due to his persistent smoking. His boss, Sgt. Satch DeLeon, an old friend of Frank's, assigns him to investigate the "Nightingale", a serial killer who murdered three nurses in the 1960s and was never caught. However, John discovers that the Nightingale is now connected to ten murders, including that of his mother two weeks after Frank's now-avoided death. Feeling guilty that their actions somehow led to the Nightingale committing more murders, John persuades his father to help him prevent these crimes from occurring. Frank manages to save the first victim. But when he tries to rescue the second, the Nightingale subdues him, steals his driver's license, and plants it on the victim to frame Frank for the murder.
When Frank shares his experience with his son, John realizes Frank's wallet has the Nightingale's fingerprints. John instructs his father to wrap his wallet in plastic and hide it somewhere in the house where John can find it 30 years later. Using the preserved fingerprints from the wallet, John identifies the Nightingale as Jack Shepard, a former detective. In the original timeline, Shepard died from a medical error the same night Frank died. Julia was supposed to leave work at the hospital early after learning Frank's death, but since it did not happen in the new timeline, Julia remained at work and prevented the error that would have killed Shepard. Meanwhile, Frank is approached by then-Detective Satch DeLeon who tries to arrest him on suspicion of murder. In the resulting struggle, the radio is knocked over and sustains damage, shutting it off. At the station, Frank attempts to prove his innocence to Satch by being able to accurately predict various aspects of the 1969 World Series, including the infamous Game 5 "shoe polish incident." While awaiting questioning, Frank activates the precinct's fire sprinkler system, escapes, and breaks into Shepard's apartment, where he finds jewelry taken from the victims. Shepard catches Frank in the act and pursues him, ending with a fight underwater where Frank appears to have killed Shepard. Satch, having realized that Frank was telling the truth, arrives in time to witness the struggle, finds the victims' jewelry and Frank is exonerated.
Frank fixes the radio, but while talking both he and John are attacked by the 1969 and 1999 versions of Shepard. Using a shotgun, Frank manages to blow off Shepard's right hand in 1969 and Shepard flees. In 1999, as the changes in the past affect the present, Shepherd's hand disappears just as he is about to kill John. Furnishings in the house change as the timeline rapidly updates itself in 1999. An elderly Frank, having quit smoking to avoid his cancer-related death in 1989, appears and kills Shepard with the same shotgun, and embraces his son.
The film concludes with a softball game including John, Samantha (now his wife), John's young son, Frank, Julia, Satch and Gordo. In 1969, as a child, Gordo had talked briefly over the radio to John in 1999; John told him to pay attention to "Yahoo." At the baseball game. the license plate of Gordo's expensive car is seen to bear the word Yahoo!.
- Dennis Quaid as Francis Patrick "Frank" Sullivan
- Jim Caviezel as John Francis "Johnny" Sullivan
- Andre Braugher as Satch DeLeon
- Elizabeth Mitchell as Julia "Jules" Sullivan
- Shawn Doyle as Jack Shepard
- Noah Emmerich as Gordon "Gordo" Hersch
- Melissa Errico as Samantha Thomas
- Jordan Bridges as Graham Gibson
- Peter MacNeill as Butch Foster
- Michael Cera as Gordon Hersch Jr., Gordo's son
- Marin Hinkle as Sissy Clark
- Brian Greene as Himself
- Daniel Henson as 6-year-old John "Johnny" Sullivan
- Stephen Joffe as 6-year-old Gordon "Gordo" Hersch
The film was greenlighted for production on January 21, 1999. Sylvester Stallone was rumored to be taking the role of Frank Sullivan in 1997, but fell out of the deal after a dispute over his fee. Renny Harlin was rumored to be director on the film. Gregory Hoblit first read the script in November 1997, eighteen months after his father's death. In a 2000 interview shortly after the American release of Frequency, he described the film as "high risk" since the project had already been passed among several directors, including one of note who had twice the budget Hoblit was given. In the same interview, he described the difficulty he had finding the two leads. Hoblit realized he needed an "experienced actor" to portray Frank Sullivan, and thus settled on Dennis Quaid.
Two weeks before its release, a sneak preview of the film was shown with Final Destination.
Frequency was released at 2,621 theaters, making $9 million during its opening weekend. Eventually, the film grossed $45 million domestically and $23.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $68.1 million.
Frequency received generally positive reviews. Based on 123 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 70% Approval Rating (Fresh) with the consensus as "a tight blend of surprises and suspense [that] keeps audiences spellbound". Roger Ebert called the film's plot "contrived", yet gave the film a favorable review. He also pointed out similarities with the films The Sixth Sense and Ghost. David Armstrong, of the San Francisco Chronicle, praised the moments in the film when John and Frank Sullivan talked to each other over the ham radio but criticized the "unintentionally funny climax". He also praised actor Shawn Doyle's performance as the Nightingale killer, calling him "convincingly creepy". Todd McCarthy of Variety magazine said despite Dennis Quaid and James Caviezel's physical separation in the film, they formed a "palpable bond that [gave] the picture its tensile strength". McCarthy noted that screenwriter Toby Emmerich's "bold leap into reconfiguring the past" created "agreeable surprises" and an "infinite number of possibilities" to the plot's direction. He added, however, that the serial killer subplot was "desperately familiar".James Berardinelli gave the film two stars out of four, criticizing the "coincidence-laden climax" but wrote that "poor writing [did] not demand subpar acting", praising Frequency's "few nice performances".
The American Radio Relay League assisted in some of the technical aspects in the film, though some ham radio enthusiasts criticized technical errors that made it into the film.
Frequency made $68,106,245 worldwide and was released in 2,631 theaters in the United States. Frequency was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but ultimately lost out to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film's ending song, "When You Come Back to Me Again", was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Written by Jenny Yates and Garth Brooks (performed only by Brooks), the song failed to win, losing out to "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys.
In November 2014, it was reported that Supernatural showrunner Jeremy Carver was in talks to produce a new television series adaptation/reboot based on the film for television network NBC. The film's writer Toby Emmerich is attached to serve as a producer for the series. NBC passed on it, and a pilot was ordered at The CW in January 2016. The series was canceled after one season on May 8, 2017.
While not a television adaptation, Frequency was briefly parodied in the television show Reno 911, where the Reno officers respond to a house fire and are urged by the homeowner to "save his novel," which turns out to mirror the plot of Frequency. The Reno officers proceed to spoil the ending of the "novel" (based on them having seen the movie), causing the homeowner to suddenly become ambivalent about having his novel saved from the flames.
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