Time waits for no man but it loops at dizzying speed for five enterprising teenagers in Project Almanac.
Dean Israelite’s found footage sci-fi thriller ponders the repercussions for a group of high school students, who build a time machine and exploit its power to rewrite history with a swipe of a smartphone screen.
“You have to kill Hitler - that’s, like, time travel 101,” quips one lad.
“Why don’t we sell this thing to Richard Branson for like a zillion dollars?” he adds with a wolfish, capitalist grin.
Both excellent suggestions but Israelite’s film focuses instead on the selfish dreams of the fresh-faced time travellers, anchoring a frenzied final act on the shaky assumption that a sensitive, practical 17-year-old would jeopardise dozens of lives for the most cloying, irrational desire.
There is a palpable lack of sympathy for any of the good-looking and intelligent characters, and dialogue repeatedly questions why a handheld camera would be constantly rolling and capturing all of the vital footage.
High school student David Raskin (Jonny Weston) intends to emulate his inventor father (Gary Weeks), who worked for the US military and died in a car crash on David’s seventh birthday.
The gifted lad is accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but only secures 5,000 US Dollars of the tuition fees.
David’s mother (Amy Landecker) prepares to sell the family home but there is one scholarship application left.
Rifling through his father’s belongings, David stumbles upon blueprints for a temporal relocation device and videotape evidence that he attended his ill-fated seventh birthday party... as a teenager.
“You’re telling me Dad left a time machine in the basement?” gasps his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), echoing our incredulity.
Using hydrogen canisters stolen from school, David builds his father’s contraption aided by Christina, nerdy friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), and high school crush Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia).
Experiments with the device, dubbed Project Almanac, begin in earnest: resitting Quinn’s disastrous chemistry test and wreaking revenge on a girl (Michelle DeFraites) who is bullying Christina.
Each step back in time sends ripples from the past to the present, beyond the teenagers’ control.
Israelite’s direction maintains a brisk pace and doesn’t tarry on the science behind the predictable adolescent wish fulfilment.
PROJECT ALMANAC (12A, 106 mins)
Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner, Amy Landecker, Gary Weeks, Michelle DeFraites. Director: Dean Israelite.