The Collegian
Monday, June 27, 2022

Film Fridays: 'The Adam Project'

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor's note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian. 

The year is 2050 and time-traveling fighter pilot Adam Reed launches himself into a wormhole. To his disappointment, he finds himself in the year 2022, four years later than his intended time, 2o18. 

Injured by a bullet wound and determined to get on with his mission - saving the future by preventing the invention of time travel - Reed seeks the help of his 12-year-old self whose sharp wit and curiosity make for an intriguing and hilarious dialogue. 

The Adam Project,” directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jonathan Trooper, T.S. Nowlin and Jennifer Flackett, was released on Netflix on Mar. 11. 

Adam, played by Ryan Reynolds, and his 12-year-old self, played by Walker Scobell, embark on a mission to save the future by preventing the creation of time travel altogether. Old Adam returned to the past for a reason: in 2050, the monopolization of time travel leads to global devastation. 

About halfway through the film, the Adams discover that they can fix the future by traveling to the past and stopping their father, a physics professor played by Mark Ruffalo, from creating the equation that made time travel possible. 

This proves to be no easy mission. The Adams not only have to convince their father to prioritize the greater good over personal success, but they spend the majority of the film being chased down by another time traveler from 2050: Maya Sorian, played by Catherine Keener. 

Sorian funded their father’s invention of time travel, and after his passing in 2019, she inherited the company and all the power that came with it. The destruction of time travel would be the destruction of her monopolistic empire, and she’ll do anything to prevent that from happening. 

To spare you from paragraphs more of plot summary, just imagine the quirky plot of “Back To The Future” meets the cinematic style of “Star Wars” (with a massive budget for CGI).

Though the idea behind the film originally struck me as cliché, I must admit that I was happily surprised. 

The film, directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, was filmed from November 2020 through March 2021 in British Columbia, Canada. Several elements of the film make it clear that it was filmed at the height of the pandemic, such as its extremely small cast size. 

With six leading actors and only 11 others listed on IMDB, While this could have easily become a weakness for the film, I’d argue that it makes it stronger. With fewer actors on screen, I felt more invested in each characters’ personal development and the film’s plot progression. 

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The lack of cast members also gives the film a warm, low-budget feeling that’s rare to find in Hollywood nowadays. Those warm feelings, however, can quickly turn cold when the camera zooms out and we see only a few people inhabiting a massive space. 

The lack of background characters provides a chilling effect that only a pandemic movie could achieve. One scene shows the two Adams juxtaposed with a massive industrial building resulting in an eerie, liminal-space type of feeling that makes you prepare for a jump scare. 

The majority of the movie is filmed within the confines of densely wooded areas with tall trees. This certainly adds to the intensity of scenes where the Adams are chased down by Sorian’s massive futuristic jet planes. By concealing what they are running from, the director leaves the viewer feeling small, vulnerable and intimately woven into the action on the screen. 

Though exciting and nerve-wracking at times, I wouldn’t call this film a nail-biter. Despite it clearly falling into the adventure sci-fi genre of film, I walked away with a bittersweet, heartwarming feeling. As corny as it sounds, I’d say the movie is more about love, self-growth and loyalty than it is about time travel. 

Upon arriving in the year their father invented time travel, both Adams are forced to confront feelings about their father’s death. For 12-year-old Adam, less than two years had passed since his father’s death. The trip to the past was a chance to see him one last time and get some closure. 

For older Adam, the sight of his father forced him to reconcile with decades-old feelings of resentment and anger toward him. 

From the moment that they first attempt to present their plan to their father, the Adams have different mannerisms that reveal how they cope with his death. Older Adam quickly becomes frustrated with his father’s inability to listen to anyone but himself. Meanwhile, younger Adam simply appreciates his father’s presence. 

As the Adams and their father work together to save the future by preventing the creation of time travel, the viewer is exposed to two journeys. One is a tale of time travel and sci-fi technology being used to dismantle an evil plot before it can take root. The other is the story of a boy and a man gaining closure about their father’s death and the different forms that grief can take on. 

Though older Adam boasts his physical and mental superiority, several scenes show younger Adam displaying a level of wisdom and intelligence that his older self seems to have lost to bitterness and envy. The moral that I extracted from the story is to not blame the loss of yourself — your values, priorities, hopes and dreams — on the faults of someone else.

Erasing the positive memories of his father and obsessing over the bad ones gave Adam someone to villainize when the true villain was his deeply rooted self-hatred. By embarking on the journey with his younger self, Adam not only stops time travel but rediscovers a part of himself he thought he had lost to time. 

What I expected to be another corny sci-fi movie ended up being a touching story about loss, healing and self-love. 

Contact features editor Kate Kimmel at kathryn.kimmel@richmond.edu. 

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