(SPOILERS) 12:01, a Fox Network TV movie, was first shown the same year as Groundhog Day, that much feted classic of the one-day-repeated micro-genre that also includes the recent Edge of Tomorrow/Live. Die. Repeat., The X-Files’ Monday and Source Code. It had previously been made as a short three years earlier, with Kurtwood Smith. Indeed, Richard Lupoff, Jonathan Heap and Philip Morton, the writers, sued the Groundhog Day people, claiming plagiarism. 12:01 is a serviceable little movie, engagingly told, but it’s easy to see why it hasn’t entered into the annals like its more illustrious companions.
Indeed, even The X-Files’ Monday (from the recharged sixth season), is superior, telling its story effectively and punchily in half the time. Like Edge of Tomorrow and Source Code, 12:01 attempts an explanation behind its conceit, rather than it all just being magic to cause a shift in its wayward protagonist’s outlook. This forms the underpinning of events and the murder narrative, but like Groundhog Day it’s driven by a love story.
Barry (Jonathan Silverman, a more affable Judd Nelson) is a bored and put-upon personnel department employee of a company conducting experiments into particle physics. He moons from afar over scientist Lisa (Helen Slater) and ritually gets drunk with buddy and practical joker Howard (Jeremy Piven, basically setting out the store for his entire career). Lisa is shot dead, and that night Barry suffers an electric shock from a lightning strike at the same time (unbeknownst to anyone else, since the device is supposed to have been shut down) that a faster than light particle experiment is being conducted.
Barry awakes the next morning to find himself reliving his previous day. As you can probably guess, his main endeavours, once he gets the measure of his predicament, is to woo/save the life of Lisa, which inevitably leads to working out just who is responsible for her (attempted) murder and for continuing the (banned) experiment. Along the way there are a series of quirky little signatures (the collapsing office chair is effectively the same as Ned Ryerson and the puddle in Groundhog Day) and amusement resulting from learnt behaviours and observations of others (in particular, Barry’s reactions to his overbearing boss Robin Bartlett have something of Office Space’s relishable contempt for to all things oppressively officious).
Silverman’s solid, Slater’s incredibly likeable, Piven’s Piven, and Martin Landau as head of the project Dr Moxley is as reliable as you’d expect. There’s also a decent Danny Trejo cameo.
12:01 isn’t quite able to grasp the same giddy mettle as some of its stable mates, however. Jack Sholder (Freddy’s Revenge, cult classic The Hidden) does an effective and pacey job, but the final act reduces to efficient-but-bland straight thriller antics. There’s also only one instance where the go-for-it side of repetition is fully embraced for humorous effect; Barry awakes, galvanised, heads out to work, only to be hit head on by a car, killed, and awakes again; that kind of shorthand gag could have been used to knock the movie out of the park (as both Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow exploited). As it is, Barry is only caught in his loop for about four days, by the looks of things.
The moral of the piece is much more effective, if still glib, than the meal The Age of Adaline makes, only coming from a different angle; “That’s why life is so precious. Because time passes”. Worth a look then, if a lesser entry in the repeated day cycle, and 12:01 can currently be seen on YouTube.