Project Almanac (2015)
I love films about time travel. I have made it my business over the years to try to watch them all. No matter how obscure, old or new, I have sought them out. There are still a few waiting for me to catch up on, but I didn’t even know about this one, which popped up on a TV film channel a while back. I just got around to watching it, courtesy of a wet and dreary day in Beetley.
Before you read any further, I should perhaps caution you that this is not a great film. It is not in the same league as ‘Timecrimes’, and not as involving as ‘Primer’. But if you are as interested in the subject as I am, then it is definitely worth watching, especially free of charge on TV.
It starts like a typical American high school teen film. A bunch of ‘nerds’ who are too clever to be popular, and ignored by the good-looking girls at school. They are accompanied by the sister of one of them, David, a boy who is hoping to get into the prestigious M.I.T., with his project on drones. When he and his sister discover that their mother intends to sell the house to pay his tuition fees, they search the attic, trying to find something that their deceased father might have left behind that they can use for a new project.
They discover an old video camera.
Looking at old family films on that, David sees something that cannot be explained. His reflection in a mirror, at his own 7th birthday party. But it is the teenage David they can see, not the boy enjoying his cake. This sets the scene for the film. David, his sister, and two brainy friends begin to search the family basement, where they discover the plans for the Project Almanac of the title, a government plan to build a time machine. So they decide to build it. After a few mishaps, they eventually manage to send a toy car back in time for a few minutes, and then feel it is time to try the machine out on people.
What follows is quite entertaining. These teenagers do the things that you might expect. They go back in time with winning lottery numbers, alter exam results at school, and get VIP passes to a band’s concert. Very soon, they are the most popular kids in school, and rich enough to buy anything they need, as well as saving the house from being sold. But David is in love with one of the hottest girls at school, and uses the machine to go back in time, to make her fall for him.
Once he starts time-travelling alone, all sorts of knock-on effects begin to happen, and it is soon very apparent that using the machine to change the future has serious consequences.
You have to keep your concentration levels high when watching this. Much of it appears as jerky, ‘found footage’, as they continue to film their adventures on the old video camera. Some scenes repeat with very small differences, not unlike in ‘Groundhog Day’, and there is a lot of flashing, bright lights, and rewind/fast forward footage to deal with too. I didn’t know any of the cast, and will not bother to list them. But that worked to my advantage, as I had no preconceptions of their talents, good or bad. The special effects are kept to a minimum, and that makes the whole thing that much more realistic.
All in all, not a bad effort, and a time-travel film to tick off my list.