Project Almanac is directed by Dean Israelite in what is his feature film debut. It features a no-name cast who play a group of high school students who come across a temporal displacement device i.e. time machine in a basement. The basement is in the house of David (Jonny Weston) whose father died in a mysterious car crash and who it would appear had connections with the US Government.
Over the course of the film the gang get the machine to work, have some fun, right some wrongs and fall in love, all before the world starts to go to hell in a handcart. This is not a film about character development or hyper realism, it’s intended to be a fun hour or two in the cinema with your friends. For me it succeeds in the main. You’re getting into dangerous territory with time travel as you stepping on the toes of the classic Back to the Future (1985) which this movie was never going to be.
The main positive of the film was that despite what some might consider a ridiculous premise the choices the gang make are consistent with high school teenagers. The plot ultimately revolves around David’s wannabe relationship with one of the ‘cool girls’ in school which leads him to break his own rules on jumping through time and imminent disaster for everyone around him. I recognise that not everyone gets along with the found footage genre and there is usually a scene (or several in the case of Into The Storm (2014)) where you ask how did they film that? I really struggled to find an obvious error in this movie.
There’s plenty of energy to go around and it might sound silly but I appreciated the fact that when the time jumps happen it’s not blink and your’re there. You take a real physical hit, it’s not plain sailing. The main issue I had with the film was that it could have been tightened up a bit – take ten minutes out, including getting to the time travel faster, and it wouldn’t have dragged as it did in parts. There are plenty of movie cliches including the super smart high school student, the irritating friend who does silly things, the geek and the popular girl etc etc.
Overall I enjoyed the film especially as everything starts to spiral out of control towards the end. I do think the ending is a bit of a cheat. I would have preferred something a little darker and unresolved but I was asking too much given the target audience. If you are prepared to buy into the premise of time travel, teenagers and found footage cinema this should be an enjoyable watch. My rating 3/5.