UK Release Date: 20th February 2015
Runtime: 106 minutes
Director: Dean Israelite
Writer: Jason Pagan, Andrew Deutschman
Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Virginia Gardner, Amy Landecker, Allen Evangelista
Synopsis: When they complete a half-finished time machine, a robotics whizz and his friends decide to improve their lives and have a bit of fun… until the consequences start to kick in.
Found footage made a notable foray outside of the genre in 2012 for critically lauded thriller Chronicle. Whilst its natural home still remains the scary movie, the gimmick is now a firm part of the filmmaker’s toolkit. The latest film to take advantage of ubiquitous POV camera is Project Almanac – which takes time travel and shakes the camera a lot more than the genre conventions.
High school senior David (Jonny Weston) is a robotics whizz who has been accepted to MIT, if he can afford the tuition. With the help of his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner), he looks through his deceased father’s belongings. When David sees his present self on an old video, he discovers a half-finished time machine. David’s crush Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia) in tow, the friends embark on a journey through their own past.
Project Almanac has plenty going it for it in the early stages. There’s an easy, relaxed chemistry between the leads which makes their friendship feel fun and organic. Jonny Weston excels as a likeable, intelligent lead and Sam Lerner grabs laughs as the group’s loveable goof.
| "Whatever we did, it had some crazy ripple effect."
The plot, too, is interesting in the first hour or so. It’s enjoyable to see the power of time travel being used exactly as teenagers would use it – to party hard and to overcome their social awkwardness. It invokes the early stages of Chronicle in which the main role of telekinesis was to dick around.
Unfortunately, Project Almanac takes a turn for the dazzlingly mediocre when the machinations of its plot begin to kick in. Once the entertainment vanishes and the peril amps up, the deficiencies of the script and the limited range of the actors become apparent. Given the noisy final act, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see Michael Bay’s name on the list of producers.
It is also in this later stages that the inherently irritating and contrived nature of the found footage gimmick begins to impede the storytelling in Project Almanac. There’s a huge difference in suspension of disbelief between assuming someone would want to film their friends doing awesome time travel and accepting the fact that they gently place the camera on the floor pointing in their direction before any conflict occurs.
| "It’s like a second chance machine."
The delicately poised house of cards that is Project Almanac completely collapses by the time the film moves to its climax. Events are rendered near-indecipherable by the constantly whirling, shaking camera and the events in question rarely seem to be particularly interesting. There are nuggets of genius within the concept, but the execution is a creaky mess.
Pop or Poop?
There’s a nice idea within Project Almanac – despite its awful title – but poor writing and the increasingly loathsome found footage gimmick hold it down.
The young performers make a decent fist of it, but they are exposed when forced to lift the narrative out of a cinematic bog.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.