The Netflix Sci-Fi Dark Thriller That’s Less Than 90 Minutes

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

arq sci-fi movie netflix

Movies, in general, are predictable. There’s a reason for this as most films follow the same tried and true structure that producers know are more likely to make a profit. But every once in a while, a movie comes along that breaks the mold, like the American-Canadian science fiction film, ARQ, a short 90-minute feature on Netflix that keeps the audience guessing all the way to the end.

ARQ is Streaming On Netflix

robbie amell

ARQ is the brainchild of writer-director Tony Elliott, and its inception dates back to 2008, back when the concept of time loops was far from exhausted in popular cinema.

However, it took almost a decade for the film to break free from the tortuous limbo of development hell. Finally, Elliott’s unproduced script caught the eye of the creators of the acclaimed series Orphan Black, leading to his eventual hire on the series.

In turn, it eventually led to him being noticed by Netflix who then optioned to produce his script. 

Small ARQ Budget

With a miniscule budget reportedly under $2 million, ARQ went from being stuck in years of abeyance to being shoved into a quick 19 days of production in Toronto. At last, the film was ready to defy the conventions of time-travel narratives.

The narrative unfolds as Robbie Amell (The DUFF) convincingly portrays Renton, waking up to a chilling reality—a trio of intruders aggressively seeking stolen currency from a rival corporation.

The twist? With each demise, Renton finds himself back at the starting point, caught in an unending loop. The ARQ, a perpetual motion machine of his creation, unexpectedly emerges as the driving force behind this temporal rollercoaster.

ARQ Combines Movie Styles

arq sci-fi movie netflix

ARQ skillfully weaves together elements of a home invasion thriller with mind-bending time-travel complexities. Each iteration of the loop peels back layers of the characters, exposing motivations and betrayals that keep audiences guessing.

The suspense is amplified by the dynamic between Renton and his former lover, Hannah, played by Rachael Taylor (Transformers).

With less than $2 million to make a convincing sci-fi film, Tony Elliott scheduled a tight production for ARQ that was only a little more than just two weeks.

Using his prior experience, including lessons learned from working on Orphan Black, Elliott managed to direct his passion project and develop a film that punches above its weight. 

ARQ Debut And Release

ARQ made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016, in the Discovery section—a fitting choice for a film that unfolds like an enigmatic puzzle.

The film went up against 35 other features in its category and, while it ultimately lost to Jeffrey and Kati Kati, the feature gained critical attention for its ability to squash a whole lot of intrigue into just an hour-and-a-half run time.

The global release on Netflix a week later allowed audiences worldwide to experience the time-loop madness from the comfort of their homes.

ARQ Reception

ARQ didn’t just loop into the film scene; it left an indelible mark on critics and viewers alike.

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter praised it as a “tricky little time twister,” drawing comparisons to iconic time-loop films like Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow.

DeFore commended ARQ for avoiding the pitfalls of tangled logic often associated with time-travel narratives, particularly applauding its paradoxical climax.

Stream ARQ On Netflix

Still available to watch on Netflix, ARQ shines as a hidden gem that deserves more recognition than it’s received. Its unique take on the time-loop narrative, coupled with the tension-fueled plot and stellar performances, elevates it beyond the confines of its budget.

So, the next time you’re scrolling through your Netflix queue, give ARQ a chance—it might just loop its way into your list of favorites.