At first glance, “Project Almanac” seems to be the last of a long tradition of time travel-based movies. Following a brilliant high school student as he constructs a time machine in his garage, the sci-fi action adventure details every step of the journey with edge-of-the-seat realism.
How could such a low-budget project compete with iconic classics of the genre like the “Back to the Future” series? By focusing on the human aspect of each one of the characters, “Project Almanac” redefines the time travel movie. By staging the entire story on the actions of the characters rather than on time travel itself, the film avoids compromising substance for style, like contemporary action flicks do.
Jonny Weston plays David Raskin, the MIT-bound genius who builds the time machine. Weston shared his appeal for the role in an interview with The Miami Hurricane.
“I wanted to explore the dark concept of time travel and the idea that it is like an addiction. I wanted to bring that human aspect,” he said.
It’s characters’ emotions and their evolution throughout the story that give the film its universal appeal. By putting its characters in a state of apparent total control over their destiny, the film questions people’s reliance on second chances.
“There are no second chances,” the genius time-traveler says once jaded by conflicting time frames. Yet the film’s message bubbles with optimism. It communicates that with a willingness to take risks, one does not need a time machine to go back in time. The best way to make up for lost time is to be bold enough to redefine the present while living it.
“The second chance is you going to the person with them knowing and saying this is what I meant to say,” Weston said.
The film lives up to its own advice, taking risky creative decisions. Its cinematography is comprised of found footage, a technique in which the film is captured by a home camera by one of the characters.
“Really, you could be the one holding the camera,” said Weston.
Because scenes are captured in long shots they feel unedited, yet never tedious. With characters talking over each other and action exploding in offbeat moments, the scenes feel spontaneous and un-acted.
“A lot of those moments are completely off the cuff, but I also give credit to the writers because I’d go to the writers and say ‘how do we communicate this’ and they’d hand me five sheets of paper within the hour,” Weston said. “It feels really good to be respected in that way and be treated as a fellow artist.”
Indeed, Weston shares that some of the scenes were entirely his creation. His spontaneity and chemistry with the other characters keep the film lighthearted even while dealing with dark questions. The focus on human dilemmas lends timelessness to the film, making it one our generation can surely come back to in the future.