Home Page > Movies Index > Sci-Fi | Thriller > Movie Review

Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Look Before You Leap

Project Almanac (2014) on IMDb

Plot Overview

High schooler Christina Raskin (Virginia Gardner) films her older brother: “Hi. My name is David Raskin” (Jonny Weston) a senior pitching for an MIT scholar­ship, her film later to become a mad scientist wannabe's found footage: almanac. His project is a hand signal controlled drone helicopter that uninten­tion­ally proves the saying, What goes up (“Is that my phone?”) must come down (“It's dropping”), due to an unexpected signal problem (“The call's inter­rupting the Wi-Fi.”) These guys are so unpopular, who would ever call them? But after 47 days of “waiting for the letter,” there's good news. He got accepted. And there's bad news. But on a too limited scholarship.

In the school cafeteria his friends Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) and Adam Le (Allen Evangelista) challenge him unsuccess­fully (“MIT likes risk-takers”) to make some moves on one of the hot girls Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D'Elia), but she's way out of his class. David comes home to find a For Sale sign in front of his house, his mom's explanation gently given, “The house will pay for MIT. I miss your father, too, but he would have wanted this. It is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it now.” In desperation David and his sister sort through an “attic full of equipment” looking for more ideas to win a tech­nology scholar­ship. They come across a hulk of a cam­corder with footage of David's 7th birth­day party on it, and anomalously a flash of his older self in the back­ground. It could not have been photo­shopped because, “It's been in my attic for ten years.”

The three friends take its cue to investigate “all of your dad's stuff” in the locked base­ment (“We're not allowed in here”) to discover (“Oh, my God!”) his dad worked for DARPA and left plans for a “thermo-magnetic acceler­ator navigation drive” to a partially constructed “temporal relocation proto­type” (“It means time travel.”) Christina drops in on them with her ubiquitous camera (“You're tellin' me Dad left a time machine in the base­ment?”) They need a graphics processor to navigate it, but one of the guys suggests his new X–box (“I think we can control the time machine with this.”) They work with off-the-shelf parts, even stealing some hydrogen canisters from the school for their fusion reactor.

In the cafeteria David has to talk to Jessie to return her switched back­pack. Back in the base­ment there's lots of smoke but no fire as they keep burning up batteries. When Jessie pulls into the party next door, they offer to let her park in their drive­way, and with the aid of a series of jumper cables (“We're gonna use her battery”) find a hot enough power source. They have some initial success but realize, “We have to keep this quiet.” How­ever, when Jessie investi­gates the wires coming from her car, they have to let her know. She is fear­less and presses for human trials long before these nerds would ever go for it. “The warp has a ten foot diameter” that accommodates all five of them who determine to only jump in groups.

These are just kids doing kid-type stuff, not unsettling the time con­tin­uum out of measure, until David decides to jump alone to inter­fere with some­thing that was meant to be or not to be, and then it gets out of hand like a scene from The Sorcerer's Apprentice where each fix just moves the bubble around as the “time lines crisscross.” They discover, “It's bigger than us,” necessi­tating a visit to dad in the past to “fix something.”


The five time-explorers each pick a destination as follows:

Quinn Goldberg
A recent Chemistry presentation to ace after some practice tries
Christina Raskin
A chance to retaliate on head bitch Sarah Nathan (Michelle DeFraites) who'd been tormenting her
Adam Le
To win the Georgia State Lottery and use the money to make them all popular
Jessie Pierce
Attend the traveling musical tour Lolla­palooza that had come through their town, now with VIP passes purchased after the concert on eBay allowing them back­stage privileges
David Raskin
Visit his dad, as an older version of him­self that he'll respect

In various ways they're all increasing their status, being an important part of their teen­aged lives. The movie takes a serious turn, though, at a “special moment” at the concert wall where people post messages for what they want to do “Before the world ends … .” Biblically “the end of the world” (Matt. 24:3) we're awaiting is related directly (Matt. 24:38-39) to “the end of all flesh” (Gen. 6:13) in the days of Noah. As we saw in the movie “Noah,” the ark floated up with the rising waters, came down when the water abated, then there was a waiting period for the world to dry out. The movie starts with the drone going up in the air, then coming down, then the wait for the letter from MIT. Further­more, (Gen. 6:4) “There were giants in the earth in those days … mighty men which were of old men of renown.” Here in our movie we have the high school foot­ball team called the “Titans” and backstage musician(s) they visit called “Atlas Genius.” Our movie is evoking the end of the world in the past, in Noah's days. Back then there were eight people who escaped in the ark to a new future world. Here there are only five who ride the vortex back into tomorrow. But we're only dealing with status issues for a single generation, we don't need ma and pa. Further­more, our travellers aren't even old enough to have spouses. Adam connects up with Christina, and then David and Jessie become an item, but Quinn hasn't got a girl­friend yet, perfectly normal for that age, especially with some of them being nerds any­way. Noah trans­ported breeding pairs of animals. Our fellows just take a dog with them on one trip. As long as we don't worry about saving the world and repopulating the Earth, we can look at how the movie examines status through the passage of time.

David prominently carries a Chemistry textbook with him. The teacher kept correcting Quinn that he needed “comprehension not memorization” of the elements he recited. If we are going to apply scripture from the Bible we carry, we need to under­stand it, not just quote it from rote. Ancient stories can be fleshed out by referencing the historical book of Jasher mentioned in Joshua 10:13 & 2Sam. 1:18. According to Jasher (6) God brought the animals to Noah, and he took with him the ones that humbled them­selves. We read this incident (Jasher 6:4-7):

And Noah went and seated himself by the door of the ark, and of all flesh that crouched before him, he brought into the ark, and all that stood before him he left upon earth. And a lioness came, with her two whelps, male and female, and the three crouched before Noah, and the two whelps rose up against the lioness and smote her, and made her flee from her place, and she went away, and they returned to their places, and crouched upon the earth before Noah. And the lioness ran away, and stood in the place of the lions. And Noah saw this, and wondered greatly, and he rose and took the two whelps, and brought them into the ark.

We'd skip over a story like this in Sunday School or Theology Class, but in reviewing a movie that deals with status, this story becomes significant. Especially considering the numbers in the younger generation that get saved: (Gen. 6:10) “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” And then consider that Jessie sat at a different table from the nerds at first. It was a major accomplishment for her to be accepted together with the others on the project.

Let's look again at Noah's story (Jasher 5:14-17):

And the Lord said unto Noah, Take unto thee a wife, and beget children, for I have seen thee righteous before me in this generation. And thou shalt raise up seed, and thy children with thee, in the midst of the earth; and Noah went and took a wife, and he chose Naamah the daughter of Enoch, and she was five hundred and eighty years old. And Noah was four hundred and ninety-eight years old, when he took Naamah for a wife. And Naamah conceived and bare a son, and he called his name Japheth, saying, God has enlarged me in the earth; and she conceived again and bare a son, and he called his name Shem, saying, God has made me a remnant, to raise up seed in the midst of the earth.

Shem and Japheth were full brothers, Ham was born at a later date (the youngest, see Gen. 9:24) perhaps from a different mother. Noah's wife was older than he was. Perhaps at 580+ years she was no longer able to bear children after the first two. She didn't have any more after the flood, even though it was a time to repopulate the Earth. Maybe she stopped bearing before the flood. If Ham was the step­brother of the other two, that would naturally affect his status, which is what we're interested in here.

(Jasher 5:34-35) “In his five hundred and ninety-fifth year Noah commenced to make the ark, and he made the ark in five years, as the Lord had commanded. Then Noah took the three daughters of Eliakim, son of Methuselah, for wives for his sons, as the Lord had commanded Noah.” That ark was an awfully big project for the four of them to complete in five years. Maybe they used slave labor. If Ham were the son of a slave girl, that would further reduce his status.

After the Flood there was an incident, Gen. 9:20-22, where Noah got drunk on wine and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who brazenly viewed him so. Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had violated him in some way, Gen. 9:24. Noah's curse puts Ham's youngest grand­son Canaan in a position of servitude, Gen. 9:25. Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah. Writer Bodie Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

In “Project Almanac” the one inter-table conversation between David and Jessie, when he returns her back­pack, has to do with it not being appropriate for him to have gone through her personal things inside it (“Stay out of my perfume.”) There is her personal space that is supposed to remain covered. Later instead of them having a real sex scene, she flashes him some skin through an open robe when his mother isn't home. That seems to hark back to this historical incident with Noah. If Ham were a house-(tent?)servant of Noah, it would have been his job to cover up the old man, but instead, his two brothers did it and Ham mocked. The one similar incident in the Bible of mocking exposure (of a bald head) concerns the prophet Elisha, (2Kings 2:23-24) “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” The two (hairy) bears are reminiscent of the lion's whelps that attacked the lioness.

In our modern confusing life, civil rights rhetoric can and does reference history and perhaps rewrite it—you don't need a time machine to influence status, just a pen. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) said, quoting from some other influential thinker, that the arc of history is long but it tends towards justice. If justice would include Noah's just pronounce­ment that handicapped one people, then they would only gradually catch up, and federal inter­vention might result in unwanted secondary effects just as our time travelers experienced with their manipulation. There might be just enough angst in society to want to escape in a theater where the boys can take care of DARPA in one fell swoop.

Production Values

“Project Almanac” (2015) was directed by Dean Israelite. Its writers are Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutsch­man. It stars Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, and Virginia Gardner. They all came across pretty well as typical teenagers. It's rated PG–13.

The found footage motif stays within comfort bounds: not too shaky. Since they all determine to document the story and wear GoPros, the complete story from multiple angles makes sense, and time travel, apparently, gave one of them opportunity for editing. A lot of critics have complained that straight narrative shooting was what was called for, but I'd like to point out that unless they had some low profile way to shoot their Lolla­palooza trip, they would not have had permission to do it there. They would have had to go with extras in a staged concert they'd planned rather than the real thing. They shot in the (2) mornings before it got crowded. In this teen­age movie, having a real rock concert is worth more than some technical preference for big cameras.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I thought this was a fun movie with fun time travel and some interesting characters one could get behind. The science was, well, fiction to be sure, but engrossing. The special effects were electric, not just CGI. It didn't last too long, and the paradoxes were … paradoxical. The apocalyptic subtext was veiled but played to our deep anxieties. This was an altogether satisfying teen Sci-Fi flick. If you don't want any­thing more adult, go for it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

The Book of Jasher. Trans­lated from the Hebrew into English (1840). Photo litho­graphic reprint of exact edition published by J.H. Parry & Co., Salt Lake City: 1887. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Pub., 1988. Print, WEB.