The Adam Project is the latest Netflix produced release, a mind-bending sci-fi with its new take on time travel. Despite reuniting director Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds following on from last year’s fun and entertaining Free Guy, I had fairly low expectations. But what could quite easily have been yet another lacklustre Netflix release instead turned out to be an incredibly fun and surprisingly heart-warming family drama about time travel.
The film opens in 2050, where pilot Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) is injured and has stolen a jet to escape from assailants desperate to stop him. We then meet 12-year-old Adam in 2022 (Walker Scobell), who is also fleeing, this time from the school bullies. After being caught and suspended much to his mother Ellie’s (Jennifer Garner) despair, he’s brought home and chastised for talking too much, with the death of his father Louis (Mark Ruffalo) 18 months later hanging over both of them.
Later that evening Adam is left home alone while his mum goes out on a date, and goes to investigate after hearing strange noises outside their property in the forest. He encounters the older Adam injured in his father’s garage and soon discovers that the adult stranger is the older version of himself. After initially claiming his mission is classified, the older Adam eventually reveals he never meant to travel to 2022 and was instead heading for 2018 to search for his missing but presumed dead wife Laura (Zoe Saldana).
Older Adam then reveals that the future he knows has been destroyed by the greed of Adam’s father’s business partner Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), and he believes that Sorian is also responsible for his wife’s disappearance. In a bid to stop her, the younger and older Adams must work together, travelling back to 2018 to enlist the help of their late father to prevent Sorian from destroying their future completely.
From the very start, The Adam Project jumps straight into the action and with a run time of well under 2 hours, it never lets up. There is not a moment of this film that feels dull, drawn-out or boring, and that’s thanks to a well-paced plot, a smart and funny script and a great mix of action and emotional, heart-warming drama. Time travel is a plot we’ve seen done many times before, but this film brings its own take and executes it fairly well. It doesn’t try and overcomplicate the theory and even does away with some of the more annoying tropes in the genre, like the time-travelling character having to explain their presence in layman’s terms to everyone he meets. The only real problem with the plot is the lack of depth to Catherine Keener’s villain and rather forgettable and clichéd motives.
Reynold’s usual charm and wit are on full display here too and it works perfectly. Both with the genuinely funny script and with his onscreen relationship with the younger Adam, Walker Scobell, who manages to pull off imitating Reynolds to a tee and gets a huge share of the laughs on offer. The film also has a very emotional side, and it is as much a family drama as it is a sci-fi. Dealing with loss and grief is a huge part of the story and while it shouldn’t work, it really does. It’s incredibly emotional and often heartbreaking at times and allows Reynolds, Scobell, Ruffalo and Garner to put in some cracking performances. I’d go so far as saying Reynolds puts in his best performance to date.
It’s in the visuals where The Adam Project stumbles and unfortunately it does so quite badly at times. The fight and action scenes are well-choreographed and exciting, but the CGI often falters. Some of the CGI looks good, but the rest is second rate and it’s obvious to tell which scenes are entirely set against a green screen. Even the sets that aren’t green screen, like the Reed home, are so fake looking and never manage to feel or look real. There’s a very clear lack of realism and inspiration when it comes to the set design that gives the film a cheaper appearance. There’s also some awful CGI used to generate a younger version of Catherine Keener’s character Sorian, which looks terrible and makes the villain more memorable but for all the wrong reasons.
Despite a rather dull villain and some questionable CGI and sets, The Adam Project boasts great performances and is a surprisingly entertaining, fun and emotional take on time travel that is well worth a watch.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!