Project Almanac: When Poor Execution Hurts a Cool Movie.
Directed by: Dean Israelite
Written by: Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutschman
Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner
Running time: 106 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content.
The concept and idea behind Project Almanac is undecidedly cool. I am a sucker for time travel, and I love when time travel is done well. For every one thing this film nailed, it missed another, inexcusably, in execution. It is the best example I can find of highlighting every problem with the “found footage” style of film making. It is visually difficult to watch. The action is segmented and choppy. The characters are frequently underdeveloped and emotionally unavailable to the audience. Most importantly, it is visually very difficult to watch. Too often in this film I was silently begging the camera to steady, and level off so I could focus on what was happening. This would have been a very strong and clever sci-fi film had it been a traditional script and mounted camera production. This film is the nail in the coffin for me on found footage films. A trendy technique almost never bears fruit, and hurts far more films than it helps.
Project Almanac is about David Raskin (Jonny Weston) and David’s friends Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner), Adam Le (Allen Evangelista), and his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner). When David, a brilliant high school student just admitted to MIT, is denied the scholarship that would allow him to attend. David desperately looks for an impressive project that will win him one of MIT’s coveted scholarships. This leads David and his friends to his father’s basement workshop where they discover one of his projects for DARPA. It is tabled a “temporal relocation” device, but is incomplete. In the process of finding a way to complete the device, David’s long time crush Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D’Elia) is swept into their plans when they hijack her Prius’ power supply to power the device. With the time machine now operational, they struggle with the power to fix the recent past, but things take a turn for the worst when they succumb to the temptation to use time travel for their own benefit.
As I had said before the story is sound. It is actually one of the best time travel stories I have seen. That is a credit to writers Andrew Deutschman and Jason Pagan, and director Dean Israelite. I can only chalk the misjudgment of style to inexperience, and quite possibly misguidance by the film producers. This film should be re-made to give the audience a chance to experience the story, and form a connection to the characters as you see them develop.
For what it is worth, this is a very worthwhile film for the story, and the way they handle time travel and the consequences. It is just undermined, to an extreme degree, by the found footage style in which it was produced.