Chaos Walking: Film Review

Chaos Walking

The response to Chaos Walking has been overwhelming negative and the Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t great, so I went in with super low expectations and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, it definitely doesn’t live up to its potential, but it’s not as terrible as I’d been led to believe.

This dystopian adventure, based on The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, is set in 2257 on New World, an alien planet which has been colonised by humans. The main action takes place in Prentisstown, which is only inhabited by men – the women got killed by the natives – and they all have ‘the Noise’, meaning their thoughts are broadcast for all to hear, so they can have no secrets, although some can control or hide their Noise better than others. One day, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) comes across Viola (Daisy Ridley) – the first female he’s ever seen in real life – after her spaceship crashes down on New World. He helps her escape Prentisstown, run by the cunning mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), and find a way to contact another ship.

I loved the concept – it is such a terrific idea ripe with potential – and enjoyed discovering this new world and watching them venturing into new terrain and getting to know each other and become friends. There are plenty of great ideas in here – particularly about how the indigenous people are perceived – but they are poorly executed, and the characters are generic and aren’t well developed so it was hard to care about them (I genuinely cared more about the dog Manchee). The action sequences were a bit confusing to watch sometimes, they felt rushed and not properly thought through. I also thought the screenplay by Ness and Christopher Ford also needed work. I felt like Todd’s Noise at the beginning was used for a lot of exposition which didn’t feel realistic – would somebody really think those things? – and some of the emotional beats didn’t always work.

I really like Holland, I think he’s a talented actor who has this cute nerdy charm and that works perfectly well here. He has a captivating onscreen presence as the naive and sheltered Todd who is finally having his eyes opened to the lies he’s been told. Ridley didn’t offer up much more than we saw in Star Wars but they play off each other nicely and I liked the team they form, with Manchee (who is adorable) completing the trio. I didn’t like the clothes she wore either, those trousers looked super uncomfortable!

Mikkelsen was perfectly cast as the sly mayor, complete with an excellent fur coat, and I liked Cynthia Erivo as his opposite – the kind and considerate mayor of Farbranch – although she wasn’t in it as much as I would’ve liked. I can’t really comment on David Oyelowo‘s performance as the radical preacher Aaron because I didn’t understand the character at all, although he was convincing as a crazed madman. And I’m surprised Nick Jonas took the part of Prentiss’ son because it was so small and inconsequential.

Chaos Walking had so much potential. The ideas, the characters, and the setting are all ingredients for a solid action-packed adventure so it’s such a shame Doug Liman squandered it and didn’t deliver the goods. There’s still plenty to enjoy in here though so don’t write it off completely.

Available for premium rental at home on all digital platforms from Friday 2nd April

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Locked Down: Film Review

Locked Down

Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor fronting a romantic comedy-heist movie set during London’s first lockdown? Sounds bizarre but sign me up!

Hathaway and Ejiofor are Linda and Paxton, a longtime couple who have lost their spark, sleep in separate rooms, and are basically living as strangers in their own house. They have essentially broken up and plan to part ways for real once the lockdown is over. In addition to their romantic frustrations, Linda is considering quitting her job as the CEO of Miracore UK after having to make most of her staff redundant with no notice, and Paxton is on furlough, depressed and feeling a sense of despair about his life, frustrated that he can’t get a better job than a delivery driver due to a conviction 10 years ago.

His boss Malcolm (Ben Kingsley) calls him up and asks him to make a few high-value deliveries from department stores over the course of a week – using a false identity due to his criminal history – while Linda has to clear out the stock from an in-store jewellery and accessories event that never took place at Harrods due to the lockdown. The centrepiece of the event was the Harris Diamond, a £3 million jewel hidden in the vault at the luxury store, with its replica on display on the shop floor. Realising their schedules align, Linda and Paxton concoct a plan to steal the diamond.

Does the plot sound awfully contrived to you? That’s because it really is! The logistics of how the heist comes together are worthy of an eye roll. The movie isn’t a heist film in the usual sense – if you’re going into this expecting something in the vein of the Ocean’s franchise, you’ll be disappointed, because it’s more a case of the fates aligning to make the opportunity present itself and they decide if they should take it or not. Although it was cool to see inside Harrods during the lockdown, the heist itself is rather anticlimactic as there’s not much high-stakes tension or thrill involved.

Locked Down, directed by Doug Liman, is much more successful in the romantic comedy domain, although it is more amusing and entertaining than laugh-out-loud funny. I liked Hathaway and Ejiofor as these characters; I thought they very charming and had great chemistry as a couple stuck in a rut unable to figure a way out. I also enjoyed being able to relate to the mundane details of lockdown life, such as queuing for the shop and remembering a mask before you go, as well as the Clap for Carers and all the technical issues you might encounter working from home. It encapsulated the “life on hold” feeling quite well, although it is set in the first wave of the lockdown and we now know that it’s going to be another year or so before that feeling goes away.

As well as the two lead performers, there are some enjoyable virtual appearances from famous faces, like Ben Stiller as Linda’s boss Solomon and Mindy Kaling as her former Harrods colleague Kate, and Dule Hill and Jazmyn Simon as David, Paxton’s half-brother, and his wife Maria, while you also get in-person appearances from Stephen Merchant and Lucy Boynton as Harrods employees.

Sure, the heist element doesn’t quite work and it could have been funnier, but I quite enjoyed Locked Down as a light-hearted, amusing take on pandemic life. Some people might not think it’s the right tone but as someone who handles doom and gloom with humour, this works well for me.

Available to rent at home on premium video-on-demand platforms from Thursday 11th March

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.