This film would be, I’m guessing, JJ Abrams’ wet dream. Steven Spielberg is an influence to many (myself included), so getting to do a project that is sort of an homage to Spielberg with him as the executive producer has gotta be pretty mind-blowing.
And given that kind of situation, I would think you would put your heart and soul into this and it looks like Abrams’ did. This film is top notch – writing, producing, directing, acting, all great.
As far as writing: it’s kind of Stand by Me meets ET – With a Vengence!! I was around the age of these kids at the time this film took place, so it was very nostalgic as far as cultural references; the 80’s period is put together nicely. There’s a number of subplots but the main focus is on a group of teens shooting a zombie movie near the site of a train wreck. The cargo on the train turns out to be extra-terrestrial which attracts a government cleanup.
There’s a lot of human interest relationship elements here which turned out to be fun to watch. There are some great crossover points between the various parts of the storyline that work well and offer some nice surprises.
Production wise, Abrams does a great job directing and made up a bit for me with Star Trek (sorry, he’s hit or miss with me and I thought that his vision of Star Trek was not great). Visually the design is nicely stylized to make it feel like the 80’s without feeling cheesy. The train wreck sequence is spectacular by the way, worth seeing on the big screen. It looks like a Spielberg movie with Abrams elements throughout the story.
The actors are all bringing their skills to the table and throwing down. I was surprised that all the kids were solid, but they were. The rest of the cast is on the mark too. The fun is in watching the kids, their relationships, their work on their movie and how they handle the events placed at their feet. Watching them took me back a bit, without the train wreck part.
This one is worth seeing in the theater and is a great addition to a fun summer movie season. Make sure to stay for the credits.
reviewed by Sean McKnight