Project Almanac; a strangely mind blowing rendition of travelling through time; essentially another reminder of the golden rule when it comes to time travel: don’t mess with it! As we follow Dean Israelite through his dark and vivid tale, it’s hard to ignore the slight resemblances to Hot Tub Time Machine.
What we start with is a bunch of high school outcasts, led by the young MIT hopeful, David Raskin (played by Jonny Weston). With no dad on the scene, a mum who can’t afford the rent and college tuition fees on the horizon, financial strains are taking its toll. With a scholarship as Raskin’s only hope, he scours the attic and his dad’s old workshop, only to unwittingly find – you guessed it – blueprints for a “temporal relocation device” (note the unnecessarily wordy name). It’s all good intentions at first, until the pitfalls of personal gain propel them into dangerous waters and the gang all realise they’re out of their depth.
Produced by Michael Bay, Project Almanac already has a lot to prove in the eyes of what could be an arguably weary audience, especially when you compare this to other time travel spectacles such as Bill and Ted, or even Looper, both of which this film gives a respectable nod to. However I would encourage viewers to put their prejudice aside. It’s worth mentioning here that the infamous lens flare did not make an ugly appearance as it has done in the past.
With camera work that wears its heart on its sleeve, the film’s more point-of-view approach is a striking and effective welcome into the mindset of a group of teenage prodigal misfits. With that in mind, casting choices were also well thought out, introducing high school students with as much intellect as they have abandon. As you might expect, irresponsible time travel is inevitable and although it’s a part of the youthful package, there is a point where the film feels more like a documentary of Woodstock than it does a sci-fi flick. Editing also adds to the verisimilitude with long takes as well as a pause-and-play style to cement the illusion of old-school, nostalgic film-making. While the time travel sequences did invite opportunity for some overkill special effects and haphazard editing, the film redeems itself by using it sparingly… ish.
Project Almanac ends in a similar way to most films with a time travel vibe: with a few questions marks, some raised eyebrows, and – without wanting to give too much away – a lesson is well learnt. As a general viewer, it’ll be an intense, dramatic and occasionally unsettling rollercoaster, but as for the science-fiction fans coming in their waves of sceptical questions, try not to focus on the contradictions. Naturally it is always a pitfall of a science-fiction film to try and explain a concept that doesn’t technically exist, so retrospectively, it is a film that is much better enjoyed rather than picked apart at the seams.