Friday, February 6, 2015

Project Almanac

David (Jonny Weston) discovers his father’s old video camera in the attic and watches clips of his 7th birthday party, in which he sees a split second shot of his 17-year-old self. Amused, he tells his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and best buds Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner). As they start to unravel clues as to how he managed to make a cameo in a video recorded 10 years ago, they are eventually led to the basement where his father apparently hid an important device central to the creation of a time machine. His longtime crush Jessie (Sofia Black d’Elia) walks in on them as the experiment finally begins to work, sending a toy car back a minute or so in time. The quintet soon find themselves time hopping farther back in time and taking advantage of the knowledge they already possess in order to make their lives at present more convenient. What they did not intend to happen, however, is create small ripples in the flow of time, causing irreversible damage to the people around them.

Time travel is every nerd’s ultimate fantasy, which is why this movie’s faults would be very easy to forgive if you are one yourself. This does not save the storyline from the many loopholes, though, as well as the controversial debate on the paradox involved as far as going back in time is concerned. The film does not attempt to weigh in on the debate, but instead dodges the problem and ultimately falls prey to predictable plot development, taking advantage of the many subplots that could emerge from the main storyline every time a time hop is accomplished. Time travel is a really complicated theme to tackle, even more so in film.

The movie is quite difficult to watch because it uses the found footage technique. The rapid camera motions just give you a nauseous sensation, making you want to puke or blank out with every swift camera swerve. This makes you look forward to them setting the camera up on a more stable platform so as not to cause you any more headaches. The first person point of view is effective in storytelling in a way that it makes you feel like you are with them in their journey across time. The downside is that this technique has been so associated to horror flicks in the last few years, and utilized with such precision that it makes the technique’s use in another genre a bit inappropriate, and to some extent, out of fashion.

While the plot does have many glaring loopholes, they make up for it by giving us an interesting ending open to interpretation. The question on whether history is going to repeat itself is left to your imagination, although watching a sequel where you have to watch them do everything all over again would be quite a stretch. Given how the film bombed in the box office, they better leave any plans for a sequel alone. Perhaps, it is enough for the audience to just imagine what would have happened, instead of being forced to live the experience over and over again, especially if it is going to be in the first person point of view once more.

Just like any other movie involving time travel, Project Almanac uses the same formula based on second chances and the eventual realization that you cannot really mess up with time. The past is untouchable for a reason, and films like this make you realize just that. In a way, it is a helpful reminder that the best thing you can do in this lifetime is not to dwell on the past, but rather to move on to a future that you can still shape for yourself.

Even so, there is still this undeniable satisfaction watching what-if scenarios like this, and for that alone this film is worth the watch. Just make sure that whoever you watch it with is open to such suspension of disbelief, otherwise you might end up making a simultaneous side commentary explaining everything, which is not always that pleasant an experience for everyone involved.

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