12:01 thoroughly impressed me, especially as it was a TV film. If I hadn’t found that information out beforehand, I would have been quite shocked considering its quality and storytelling. It left such a strong and favourable impression on me, that I have not been able to get it off my mind since I watched it.
It is based on a short story 12:01 PM by Richard Lupoff. It follows Barry Thomas, who is bored in his personnel job at the top-security Utrel labs and spends his days secretly crushing on the scientist across the room. Barry witnesses this scientist’s murder – but later on, in the night he gets zapped by his broken lamp – sending him into a time loop that repeats the earlier day.
Now I was intrigued by the summary of the film. Who doesn’t love a time loop? Now if you are thinking it reminds you a lot of Groundhog Day, you would probably be on the mark. But we eventually get a real tangible reason for the time loop that makes this more of a sci-fi than Groundhog Day is. However, I would posit it is an even better movie than Groundhog Day, which the writers and producers of 12:01 claim that those behind Groundhog Day stole their work.
Unlike Groundhog Day there is no redemption arc. Barry Thomas is not a terrible person, in fact, he is a likeable, well-intentioned, goofy guy who just goes about his daily routine in his dead-end job. Although there is a romantic arc in the film, it does not centre on him trying to win the girl. You get your dosage of mystery and sci-fi in abundance in this film, which is where its strength lies. But the character acting is also superb, you feel like these are real people with real issues, which could be any odd person in your life, which gives it that realistic feel that a lot of time loop films lack.
But it is definitely not all serious business at all times. There are comedic moments that gives 12:01 a feel-good impression. Barry Thomas does not spend his time lamenting his time loop but tries his best to correct it and help save those whom he cares about with differing results on each day. And he has a laugh about it when things go awry. If you have watched Happy Death Day, 12:01 might have possibly been the early inspiration for it with its light-hearted feel crossed with a life or death situation.
Now, of course, it follows the usual tropes of a time loop film. Only Barry Thomas is privy to the time loop, but he finds smart ways to help convince his long-time friend and the aloof scientist (Helen Slater – Supergirl), who may be his only hope, that what he says is true. Memorizing routines and facts about those around him, to show he knows more than he should. As just a pencil pusher, he must come up with new ways to sneak in the highly restricted science department, where the answer to stopping the time loop may be. This involves him getting into trouble with the police, security, the government and assassins, leading to an action-packed ride of a film.
Unlike other more popular and famous time loop films, we get almost pseudo-happy ending which I think is more authentic. There is none of the usual wrapping up, that gives the big pay-off we usually expect. But it is a perfect and comedic ending to a very well-done film.
Unfortunately due to its TV film status, 12:01 is very hard to get a hold of. But I would say it is definitely worth the effort of procuring it. It is a film that you could fall in love with over and over again, with each viewing.