Movies that power their plot with time-travel must be forgiven for inevitable logical inconsistencies, because unlike other fantastical features: Warp-speed, Bigfoot, UFOs, Vampires, etc. time-travel (especially to the past) breaks too many layers of logic. Yet, like other fantasies (Twilight‘s vegetarian vampires come to mind *cringes*), every speculative temporal relocation work seems to imbue their respective manifestations with distinct rules. Project Almanac is fairly typical as far as time travel movies go, but though it lacks big mistakes, it certainly is guilty of many small ones.
The standard high school setting equipped with actors in their mid 20s playing 17-year-old students sets the bland background for the film; thus the first feature of note is that it relies on found footage. This by no means adds, detracts or spins anything notably substantial in to or out of the work. It’s nice to see found footage used for non-horror purposes, but accepting an amateur teenager recording all the relevant action onto a high resolution, masterly-focused (and most importantly: expensive) camera (with perfect lighting) does require some suspension of disbelief. I want to brand the choice negatively, but I think (or hope) that found footage as a technique is on its deathbed; therefore a novel, albeit meaningless, use of the withering medium can’t be all that bad.
Project Almanac‘s tension and plot seem to be as smooth as a teenager getting behind the wheel for the first time; moments of great acceleration mix with confused braking and long stretches of idling for no apparent purpose. The audience still gets to the places we want to go, just with needless difficulty and length of time.
MTV Films has its fingerprints all over the oddly music-focused dispositions of certain characters and an over-extensive concert scene. Michael Bay, as producer, even finds some way of pushing the slow motion pill and rotating shots into the found footage. The frequent lack of logic so abundant in the high school students actions is understandable enough and there’s even a budding youthful romance. The only thing really unexpected in this film is the fact that it actually asks me, as an audience member, to piece together how a few scenes actually work; the film doesn’t over-explain much if anything, which is appreciated.
Project Almanac‘s cast features some fresh faces. One of the better performances comes from the love interest: Jessie Pierce (played by Sofia Black-D’Elia) whose role increases throughout the film. The protagonist: David Raskin (played by Jonny Weston, who the ten of us that saw Taken 3 would recognize) although a touch shy for a time-traveling MIT applicant, succeeds in bearing the weight of convoluted tension in a convincing performance.
Overall, there isn’t much to say about the nuts and bolts of the technology used in the story other than it runs into the frequent illogical snares of time-travel, but it remains pretty entertaining. It also made me feel old, but to explain why would needlessly spoil some of the plot. Though the target audience would be around 17-25 (among whom the film should be popular), I think older age brackets will find the film more than acceptable as something to enjoy during the cold temps ahead.
Photos courtesy of: MTV Films