Project Almanac (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

project almanac_75I want to note for sci-fi fans that this film focuses less on the time travel and more on the things that the characters want and what drives them toward their actions.

project almanac_500

I didn’t know what to expect from Project Almanac. I’ve seen a good amount of sci-fi/thriller movies and am usually a fan, so on that account I was intrigued right from the start. I like that none of the actors are big stars, because I’m unfamiliar with their previous work and was able to watch the film without any preconceived notions of the actors’ abilities. Project Almanac surprised me, in a good way. Despite its shortcomings, I got invested in the story, cared for the characters, and enjoyed the build of suspense from scene to scene.

The most notable feature of Project Almanac is that the entire film is shot from the point of view of the characters with a “shaky cam” sort of technique. This is a very interesting choice from director Dean Isrealite, and while innovative and unique, I’m not sure it will be well received. Experiencing a film as if being carried around in the hand of a teenager makes for an extreme amount of camera movement—so much so that it is almost nauseating at times. If you can get past the shaky camera, however, the point of view gives some interesting perspective. For example, the audience is hardly ever at eye level with the actors, which allows for greater focus on the character’s actions rather than on the characters themselves. I found this interesting at times, but there were also moments when I wanted to camera to be at a fixed position giving me a clear view of everything that was happening in the scene.

While this is a sci-fi film, it is not made for the typical sci-fi fan. The world of Project Almanac, as seen in the trailer, is set in high school, so the characters of course are dealing with high school problems. The film addresses first love, the trial of getting into and paying for college, friendship, and touches on bullying. Personally, I enjoyed these themes, but I want to note for sci-fi fans that this film focuses less on the time travel and more on the things that the characters want and what drives them toward their actions. Viewers outside the teen and young adult age range are unlikely to connect with the characters’ choices.

The story follows David Raskin (Johnny Weston) and his friends as they find David’s father’s plans for a time machine, build the machine, and then use it to improve their own lives. Things go awry as David breaks the groups’ cardinal rule: no time travelling alone. This story brings great character development to David, and Weston does a fantastic job in the role. He begins the movie as a shy nerd, extremely intelligent but lacking social skills, and ends the film as a confident leader, ready to face life’s challenges head on. This is cliché, I will admit, but what impresses me about this character is the middle of the film when David is an emotional mess of stress and fear. During his time travelling adventures, David causes some death and destruction, and upon realizing this he abandons his friends and tries to fix everything on his own. In these scenes of desperation, Weston delivers tenfold, and has the makings to become a really great well-known actor one day.

Another promising actress is Sofia Black-D’Elia, who plays David’s girlfriend Jessie. The beginning of the film is not promising for her, it looks as if she’ll be a dull love interest, but she grows as the film progresses and is given some depth, which Black-D’Elia conveys well.

I can’t say whether or not the science behind the time travel in this film is accurate, but really they don’t explain the science enough for accuracy to matter. There are enough terms and diagrams used to convey that the boys building the machine are above average intelligence, but the focus quickly shifts away from that. It’s a great story for any teenager feeling lost and unable to control the events of his or her life; and it’s quite a thrill to watch David try to correct his mistakes. | Samantha LaBat

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply