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Frequency is a 2000 film directed by Gregory Hoblit and written by Toby Emmerich.

NYPD detective John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) is the adult son of a firefighter, Frank (Dennis Quaid), who tragically died on the job when John was a child in 1969. John discovers that during the aurora borealis in 1999 he can use his father's old ham radio to talk to exactly him 30 years in the past. Using his knowledge of the past thirty years, John changes history, saving Frank from dying in that fateful accident. They soon discover that changing the timeline has drastic consequences. A serial killer known as the Nightingale Killer had died in the old timeline - but in the new timeline, John's mother, Julia (Elizabeth Mitchell), a nurse, was not called away due to Frank's death, and thus she was able to prevent the killer's death in the hospital. In the erased timeline, the killer claimed only three victims - but in the new timeline he kills ten women, one of them John's mother.

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Working across a span of thirty years, John and Frank work together to stop a serial killer, who soon sets his sights on the Sullivans...


In 2016, The CW greenlit Frequency, a television adaptation of the film; John Sullivan has undergone a Gender Flip into Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List), Frank has been made into a cop just like his daughter, and the concurrent timelines are now 1996 and 2016 (only a 20-year separation). Going undercover, he was murdered under circumstances which ruined his reputation and left his widowed wife and daughter alone and confused. The rest of the plot seems to be roughly the same as the film for now, albeit with Frank, having survived his assassination attempt, looking into the who's and why's of his murder.

Not to be confused with the obscure Rhythm Game of the same name.

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This film provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: During the scene when Frank climbs out of the water after thinking he killed the Nightingale murderer, there is a boat with an Evinrude outboard motor. The motor is a 1999 model, but this scene in the movie takes place in 1969.
  • Arc Words: "I'm still here, Chief." Appears in contexts ranging from Frank assuring little Johnny that he's still supporting him on his bicycle to Frank showing up in the present—having quit smoking to make sure he lived that long—to save adult John from Shepard.
  • Big Damn Heroes: John's father rescuing him in the present.
  • Brick Joke: Yahoo.
  • Butterfly of Doom: John saves his dad... but kills his mom. Unusually for the trope, he fixes that too, eventually, along with fixing everything that was wrong with his life.
  • Career-Ending Injury: John mentions that he had to give up baseball due to an injury in senior year.
  • Chekhov's Gun: During the climax, John's gun ends up sliding across the room. A few scenes later he and the killer fight over it.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The knowledge Frank gains from John about 30 years worth of baseball surely comes in handy later.
  • Chronic Evidence Retention Syndrome: The Nightingale Killer in Frequency had a box with trophies and newspaper clippings, stashed in a hidden compartment in a closet in his apartment. Once John identifies the killer in 1999, he sends his father (in 1969) to the address to find it, since the police knew that the killer always took mementos.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: During his talk with Frank's wife at a restaurant, Satch notices the game on TV which leads him to believe Frank's story.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The necklaces that the killer collects of his victims.
  • Da Chief: Satch, modern-day John's boss and his Dad's best friend 30 years prior.
  • Delayed Ripple Effect: Averted. All past changes affect the future "instantly" via Meanwhile, in the Future.... However, the writers managed to conserve the drama by setting the murder of the mother in 1969 a couple of days ahead giving the heroes time to find the killer.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: At the end, before Frank shoots the killer with his rifle in the present timeline.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: The time gap between past and present comes to exactly 30 years.
  • For Want of a Nail: John manages to send a message back in time and save his father's life. However, because of this change, his mother, who was a nurse, never left the hospital to make funeral arrangements and so was on duty to save the life of a man who would've died. This man turns out to be a serial killer who kills the mother and is now still at large in John's timeline.
  • Frame-Up: The killer steals Frank's driving license and places it at the crime scene to frame him for the murder of Sissy Clark.
  • From Bad to Worse: John gets quite the surprise the day after saving his father when he finds out that there are seven more victims in the Nightingale killings than there were pre-changing history. The killer was never caught. And one of the victims was John's mother (who unknowingly saved the killer's life in the new timeline). Cue Halfway Plot Switch.
  • Going Cold Turkey: How Frank Sullivan apparently quits smoking in order to save his son in 1999.
  • Groin Attack: Frank punches the killer in the groin when they fight at the night club's toilet.
  • Gun Struggle:
    • When Frank and the killer fight over the gun in the harbor basin.
    • In the climax, John and the killer struggle to get hold of John's gun when the killer's weapon has run out of ammunition.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Goes from touching story about a son reconnecting with his dead father into a Set Right What Once Went Wrong thriller. And it works.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Frank initially dies in the line of duty while saving a young woman from a warehouse fire. But John's advice makes him and the victim survive.
  • Hollywood CB: John and Frank can communicate via their ham radios without keying the microphone to speak. This is handwaved by the radios being magically connected via the aurora borealis. This "easy talk" setup is necessary to ensure that the climactic fight scenes can unfold without losing the radios connection.
  • Human Shield: During the climax, the killer uses little John to keep Frank from firing at him.
  • I Can See You: Initially Frank believes this to be happening when talking to a weird guy on a shortwave radio who tells him that he just burned the table. Actually, the weird guy is Frank's son thirty years in the future and he knows about the accident because a 30 year old burn mark has just appeared on the table he is sitting at.
  • It's Personal:
    • Once Nightingale starts to go after John's mom, it is so on.
    • He may not 100% know what's going on, but The Nightingale knows who to blame:
      Nightingale: Time for me to steal your life away.
  • Killer Cop: The Nightingale Killer is a Serial Killer of women who turns out to be a fairly respected cop.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: The way Frank uses his firefighting knowledge to rig electrical wiring, a metal door, coffee, a spraycan and a lighter smacks of this.
  • Mama Bear: Julia
  • Meanwhile, in the Future...: The effects of the temporally-displaced conversation between father and son don't take place all at once. Although it is quite inconstant — the speed of some actions in the past seems synced to the speed of the effects appearing in the present while others can take only a fraction of a second in the past but the effect in the present takes much longer. Notable examples:
    • A sentence written in the past appearing in the present letter-by-letter.
    • In one scene, the bad guy gets his hand blown off with a shotgun, meanwhile his 30 years in the future counterpart is shocked to see that same hand wither away into a nub while strangling his original opponent's son.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: See Butterfly of Doom, above.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: 1999!Shepard saying "Time to die, Sullivan!" to 1999!John gets picked up over the radio in 1969, distracting 1969!Shepard long enough for Julia to get the jump on him and Frank to shoot his hand off. Not only that, but Frank seems to have also heard it, letting him know where and when in 1999 to finish him off.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Julia (unknowingly) saved the Nightingale Killer from dying of medical error, and he repays her by adding her to his lovely list of victims.
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on Frank's face when Shepard corners him in the police station.
    • Shepard also has a facial version in 1999 when his hand starts shriveling up... after Frank blows it off in 1969.
      • Which continues when Frank shows up in 1999, ready to finish the job.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The Action Prologue established Frank as a bold firefighter. He saves a victim from the sewers and then has to escape a fireball propagating through the tunnel.
  • Parallel Conflict Sequence: The climax in which John and Frank each fight the killer in their timeline.
  • Phone Call from the Dead: The plot involves the main character's ability to communicate through time with his long-dead father through a ham radio.
  • Playing Gertrude: Elizabeth Mitchell is two years younger than Jim Caviezel while playing his mother in the present timeline. Make-up made her look way older though.
  • Portal to the Past: Though it can only transmit sound, it gets a lot of creative use.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: The main characters find out who the killer is fairly early on...the problem is how to prove it to the cops, with evidence the cops will actually believe.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: Throughout the movie. Most notably are the changing photographs and newspaper clips. There is also the nicer appearance to the decorations in the house at the end.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: After changing the past, John discovers that he remembers both the old timeline and the new one.
    • Somehow averted with Shepard. His brain should have been going nuts with deja vu and new timelines while he's fighting with the Sullivans in their respective time periods.
  • San Dimas Time: 1969 time and 1999 time seems to be hooked up and run concurrently during the duration of the aurora borealis. Possibly the best portrayed example in movie history. A prime example would be the climax in which Frank shoots off the killer's hand. It is made to look like Just in Time to prevent the killer from offing John in the present. In reality Frank would have had 30 years to do that. In fact Frank does take The Slow Path and eventually rescues John from the Nightingale Killer but only in the last possible moment.
  • Serial Killer: The Nightingale Killer.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The film is an extremely satisfying complete embodiment of this idea.
  • Skeleton Key Card: Frank tries to get into Sissy Clark's apartment with a Mastercard. It works, but he's too late for her.
  • Slow-Motion Drop: Frank's helmet hits the pavement when the warehouse building explodes. This is a technique for firefighters in impossible circumstances, as a last ditch call for help.
    • Also, a highball glass slips from John's hand when the timeline resets during Frank's rescue from the warehouse fire.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Frank does a slo-mo fall out of a burning building into the Hudson River, followed by his helmet bouncing on the pavement.
  • The Slow Path: Everyone from '69, obviously, but the gold medal has to go to the Jack Shepard of the final timeline. After getting his ass kicked and his hand completely blown off by Frank, he then runs away and goes into hiding for thirty years before returning to the Sullivan house in 1999 to try to kill John. Though it also be handed over to the runner-up Frank, who knew to come back to the house by then so he could take down Shepard for good and save John.
  • Space Is Magic: The radio connection to the past is made possible by incredible strong sun storms that have created an aurora borealis above the city. note 
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Frank does this to divert attention, when he escapes the police station. He triggers the sprinkler in his interrogation room which then turns on all sprinklers on the floor.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: John drops a hint to his perennially unlucky friend to invest in Yahoo when the company gets created. The epilogue shows that he did just that.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The movie is one big Timey-Wimey Ball. You've got the son talking to the dad on the same ham radio, and even the whole "changes happen in sync with each other" deal. The first time John changes history and saves his father, he suddenly has memories of both timelines, which is promptly dropped for the rest of the film as from then on he only has memories of how things originally happened.
  • Trust Password: Frank learns through John's future description of the ongoing 1969 World Series and the warehouse fire that John is indeed his son in 1999. Frank, in turn, uses the World Series knowledge in order to convince his cop friend that he's telling the truth about John and that he's being framed for the Nightingale murders.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never shown what happened to Shepherd's father, especially in the final timeline. One can only assume he died of heart-break upon learning about the awful truth.
  • The Window or the Stairs: Frank died in a burning building because he found himself in this situation (one corridor in fire, another with just smoke) and picked the easy way. When John tells him he has to go the other way, Frank goes through the fire, which leads to a faster way out of the building.
  • Write Back to the Future: Used by Frank to get fingerprint evidence to his son 30 years later. Also, to a lesser extent, scratching "STILL HERE" into the kitchen table.

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