Project Almanac

Project Almanac

(M) Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner  

Whether you are in high school or have lived through it, all seem to wish they could go back and change some things about that part of their lives. David Raskin (Jonny Weston) and his friends get that chance in teen action-drama Project Almanac. They are the science geeks who look longingly at the lives of others — and almost miss the adventure that is in David’s basement. Through a series of events, they discover the plans for a time machine which they build and use. It seems to be the answer to all of their problems; money, popularity, and love seem to be at their disposal. But the ripple effects of their time-travel actions cause life-threatening consequences, as well as some wrestling with the moral implications of their decisions.

My expectations were low for Project Almanac, which seemed to just be yet another mainstream teen flick. With strong whispers of Chronicle, The Butterfly Effect and Weird Science, originality is not high on Project Almanac’s priority list. But injecting time travel into the teen genre does make for some good fun. New director Dean Israelite doesn’t seem to take himself too, which greatly helps his debut feature to be able to reach the “not great, but good enough” category.

Project Almanac’s story won’t win any awards but, overall, it offers an entertaining ride. If there is any valuable message to be taken from this time-travel escapade, it boils down to the life lesson of understanding the far-reaching consequences of your actions. David and his mates come to realise that the life we have been given comes with a cost. Not just a personal cost, but one that impacts the world around us.

Notably, the content of Project Almanac was rather tame for a teen drama. There are the typical language and sexual references for this genre, but there were no real surprises. Instead, the biggest challenge is the ‘found footage’ style of filming. Project Almanac is intentionally filmed as if it has been captured entirely on a handheld camera. This stylistic technique lacks believability here, causing a suspension of reality that can affect your engagement. Although it makes sense that this band of friends would film themselves putting together the time machine they discover hidden in the basement. But, seriously, who would truly film every moment of their lives, like David and his posse seem to?

Because Project Almanac is marketed for teens, it would be easy to dismiss it as a trivial offering. But such dismissal would be unfortunate. The story opens the door to many questions about the human condition and could lead to some great conversations with friends and family.

Leaving the cinema…

Having not expected much on the way in, it seemed inevitable that I would walk out thinking of a multitude of films that have told this same story better. But Project Almanac was a fun film that takes on some of life’s bigger considerations. Oh, and there are much worse movies out there.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What does the Bible say about fathers and sons?(Matthew 3:17, John 5:19)
  2. Where can true hope be found? (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:12)
  3. Is God limited by time? (Psalm 102:12, 24-27, Isaiah 57:15, John 4:24)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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