It’s always a little worrying when a feature film is going to be helmed by someone who is at the beginning of his/her career. It’s even worse when the first-time director is going to direct a found footage film because it definitely isn’t easy to deliver a successful found footage film that will capture viewers’ attention. Just look at 2014’s “Into the Storm“, a disaster film that was filmed in found footage style but ultimately failed to adhere to the simple found footage rules. However, that is not the case for Paramount’s upcoming found footage time travel movie, “Project Almanac“.
After many years of working behind-the-scenes, Dean Israelite was finally given a chance to direct his first-ever feature film with “Project Almanac”. Is it risky to hand over a time travel movie to a new, young director? Yes, it is but boy, were we glad that Dean Israelite has managed to make this fun and enjoyable found footage film. We must say though, this could’ve been pretty mediocre if the found footage style was taken away from “Project Almanac” but the combination turns it into a pretty well-executed found footage sci-fi movie.
The film starts off by introducing David Raskin (played by Jonny Weston), the nerdy average joe who asks his sister, Christina (played by Virginia Gardner) to record down an application video he is submitting to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Even though he acts a little awkward in front of the camera, it’s clear that he is a genius as he shows us how he controls a small drone using the sensors on his fingers instead of the remote control, albeit unsuccessful when there’s signal interruption. Eventually he gets accepted into MIT but since the experiment is a little unsuccessful, he wasn’t able to receive the scholarship.
Obviously, David becomes even more devastated when his mother decides to sell their current house for the sake of his education. Now, you may think that the film will go on and on about how devastated David is but then this is where you’re wrong. The director wastes no time in jumping into the time travel concept with David’s desperate attempt to get a large sum of money for his education. He decides to look through the stuff that was left behind by his late father in the antic when suddenly his sister comes in (while filming her brother) and discovers an old camcoder.
Perhaps it’s a camcoder that should’ve never been found because what David discovers in a video of his 7th birthday party changes his life forever. We’re talking about a video that features his current self walking in the background on his 7th birthday party, which is impossible unless he could travel back in time. After reassuring his equally smart but nerdy best friends, Adam and Quinn (played by Allen Evangelista and Sam Lerner), that he is indeed in the video, they started to believe that they can actually build a time machine with the prototype that David found in his late father’s secret basement.
Here comes the interesting part: They managed to build a time machine with the prototype that was left behind by David’s dead father. How they built it? I will not go into details about that but I will just say it’s interesting to see how they managed to build it with very limited resources while keeping this project a secret. Though they were able to prove that the time machine works fine, it has limited power and clearly requires more modifications. However, with a little push/persuasion from David’s crush, Jessie (played by Sofia Black-D’Elia), David decides to give it a try with the gang. Sure, it’s risky to travel back in time but who wouldn’t want to experience time travel at least once in their lives?
They’ll go back a couple of days or weeks before to win the lottery, to get the revenge they think they deserve, and to celebrate good times at a music festival that they’ve missed in the past. They would do it as much as they want so that they can fix the past mistakes.
The time travel footage in the movie is very “raw and grounded” because the gang didn’t even consider creating a portal to travel back in time. As expected, some shaky camera works were shown in the time travel scenes but they were all very well-executed. The director paid a lot attention to the details of these scenes as they were mostly filmed in slow-mo style and paired with dramatic musical score.
These raw time travel scenes are strangely enjoyable and it’s funny to see how they call them “experiments” instead when they are already changing the world with the time machine. That’s right. You may be glad that they are finally having a good time but what follows after is a series of dire consequences from their actions.
What they have been doing causes a ripple effect to the world and subsequently alters the timeline. David’s mental breakdown certainly doesn’t help to stop the ripple effect and the temporal paradox that might wipe out a certain character from the timeline.
So, what happens to David and the gang by the end of the film? Will things go back to normal again? That’s for you to find out when you watch the film.
I must say, “Project Almanac” is very well-balanced and has the right mix of all the elements. I wouldn’t mind watching a prequel or a sequel for this movie, in which the prequel focuses on David’s father’s past and the sequel focuses on David’s future. The director could even work on a spin-off movie that goes deeper into the time travel logic.
Originally planned for release in early 2014, “Project Almanac” is officially slated for release on 30th Jan 2015. However, it will be released in Malaysia on 29th Jan 2015.