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dir-scr JJ Abrams
prd JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk, Steven Spielberg
with Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Noah Emmerich, Glynn Turman, Dan Castellaneta, Bruce Greenwood
release US 10.Jun.11, UK 5.Aug.11
11/US Paramount 1h52
An unexpected view: Fanning and Courtney
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg team up for this enjoyable alien thriller, which feels exactly how we nostalgically remember Spielberg's late-70s movies. But it's not nearly as earthy or thrilling as they actually were.
In 1979 Ohio, Joe (Courtney) is struggling with the fact that his mother has died in an accident. But it's summertime, so he and his pal Charles (Griffiths) decide to make a zombie movie with their friends (Lee, Basso and Mills). Enlisting the help of their hot schoolmate Alice (Fanning), they are shooting a scene when they witness a train crash and some suspicious ensuing military mayhem. Suddenly the town is under the control of a harsh general (Emmerich), while Joe and his friends know a lot more than he thinks.
The film feels almost like a mash-up of E.T., Close Encounters and The Goonies, telling its story in an old-fashioned way that refuses to follow current film structure (there isn't a mindless action scene every five minutes). And the production values are state-of-the-art, as everything kicks off after the gasp-inducing train derailment. From here, Abrams teases us with vague glimpses of an alien creature that escaped from the wreckage, then slowly drip-feeds us plot details until we understand what's happening.
Of course, the adults don't have a clue, from Joe's grieving dad (Chandler), who as deputy sheriff is trying to protect his town, to Alice's drunken dad (Eldard), who barks seemingly random orders. Clearly, it'll be up to the kids to save the day, but they'll have to clamber through all kinds of obstacles to get there. And even if events never quite build to one of those exhilaratingly cathartic moments Spielberg is still so good at generating, a steady pace holds our interest.
At least there's plenty of raucous humour and general chaos, even if the film's lighter and sweeter than late-70s movies actually were. Back then, filmmakers were allowed to present kids with real attitude and truly bad behaviour. By comparison, this film feels like it's been run through a political correctness strainer. Still, when we finally get to see the Super 8 movie the kids were making (stick around for the credits), it's more than worth the ticket price.
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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