When I was compiling my list of most anticipated films of 2015, many were surprised to see that ‘Project Almanac’ even came close to it. Sure, the found footage gimmick is played out and Michael Bay’s name was attached to it (only as a producer), but I have a soft spot for time travel and alternate timelines. And though it wasn’t earth shattering or anything like that, it was still a fun time at the movies.
In Dean Israelite’s feature debut, David Raskin finds the plans for a time machine in his father’s old boxes. Together with his sister and his friends, they construct the device and go through the rigorous process of testing it. Once it works, they start playing with the timeline to benefit themselves. But when they realize that their actions are affecting the world at large, they must find a way to fix everything, even if their deepest desires disappear.
The first thing that I have to say is that science of time travel in this film made it seem realistic and pretty plausible. All throughout the process of building the machine, I bought everything that Adam and David were saying about the machine. Then once we finished the testing phase, we saw probably the most violent depiction of time jumping that I’ve seen. We’re not in the safety of the TARDIS or the DeLorean where you’re not knocked out upon arriving at your destination. Seeing this new approach to a tried and true trope was a nice distraction from the jarring found footage style. And speaking of other depictions I’ve seen, I loved the references to other time travel movies like ‘Looper’ and ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ in the movie.
Another charming aspect of the film was its stars. The cast, though relatively unknown, was very likeable. Despite the show being panned by fans, I enjoyed the American remake of ‘Skins’ for what it was and I’m glad that Sofia Black-D’Elia found something awesome afterwards. Her chemistry with Jonny Weston was off the charts and they both showed a nice range in their acting ability when they went from the music festival to the scene in the driveway before everything goes to hell.
The script was cute too. I like how it was almost like a mix of ‘About Time,’ ‘Interstellar,’ and ‘Hot Tub Time Machine,,except not as good in most areas. It was basically a teen movie with time travel and a more serious tone. The first half up until David’s plight to fix everything himself really drew me in and made me care about the characters, however, parts of the second half seemed a little lazy. Maybe I watch too much ‘Doctor Who,’ but I had to stop and think about the logistics of time travel in this universe on more than one occasion because I was under the impression that if a person interacted with themselves, then it would result in a paradox and that person would be wiped from existence. I won’t go any further at risk of spoilers, but the resolution seemed a little too convenient and didn’t exactly match the level of scientific explanation that existed throughout the film up until this point. The writer knew what the endgame had to be, but he ran out of gas on the last few pages and said screw it.
That aside, ‘Project Almanac’ was still a lot more fun than I expected and I’m glad that I put it on my most anticipated list. Though the film utilized the sometimes overplayed found footage style, the characters and the story kept it all going. The script built everything up enough that you cared about how it ended, despite some inconsistencies towards the end. I’d say check it out in theaters if you’re interested in a cool new twist on the time travel genre. It’s not award-winning, genre-defying, or ground-breaking, but it was fun enough to rewatch on Netflix eventually.