Project Almanac

Director: Dean Israelite

Cast: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner, Amy Landecker, Gary Weeks

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 106 minutes

Synopsis: After discovering his late father’s camcorder, genius David Raskin (Weston) is shocked to see his current teenage self in a video from his own 7th birthday party. He and his friends soon discover his father’s research into time-travel.

Found footage does time travel in this teen focused MTV film from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. That’s probably inspired an awful lot of groaning, and it’s not hard to understand why. Found footage has been abused by the film industry as an excuse for cheap films that yield great returns. We’re long past the point where anybody might mistake it for real, actual footage. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is one thing, but convincing people that time-travel exists? It’s not going to happen.

Thankfully PROJECT ALMANAC seems to be crafted with love and care. It’s not a shameless cash grab that has been assembled without any effort. It’s well made and explores its themes rather maturely. The basic premise plays out in the same way as CHRONICLE, where teens abuse their new found power for silly reasons. They try and win the lottery, replay a science test, get their own back on the school bullies, and try and perfect dating rituals with the opposite sex. It’s self indulgent teen problems, but works due to the restrictions the film places on itself. The time machine will only go back three weeks, meaning that killing Hitler and seeing dinosaurs aren’t an option.

After the fun is had, the more serious thematic ideas come to fruition. They are themes discussed elsewhere in time travel, and have been for a very long time. After all, how can you not imagine the changes you’d make to death, romance etc. All the while making things better in one instance and worse somewhere else. It’s something our characters have to learn, but it’s the obsession of protagonist David that is a joy to watch. He actually regresses in some ways and starts to break his own rules, but it’s impossible to hate him because we all know we’d do the same.

This is the main part of PROJECT ALMANAC’s charm. Characters are real teenagers in that they are self absorbed, but also good at heart. Having teens experience time-travel is also a lot more rewarding than seeing older people do it, because they have much to learn about life. Getting the cute girl is a lot more important than anything else, and the events help them to prioritise and experience a super fast short cut into adulthood. They start to think about the terrifying future.

With a collection of wonderful special effects sequences, enjoyable comedy moments, and nerve shredding sequences of difficult choices. The CHRONICLE of time travel movies, PROJECT ALMANAC provides an exhilarating sci-fi tale that takes us from fun to furious tension. A likable young cast bring the characters to life while the direction never betrays the found footage medium. On paper this sounds easy to hate, but it’s a delightfully enjoyable surprise.

[usr=4] PROJECT ALMANAC is released in cinemas on 16th February.