Safety Not Guaranteed certainly acted as a great calling card for director Colin Trevorrow. His low-budget film got plenty of people in Hollywood interested in working with him, leading to rumours he was in talks to direct Star Wars Episode VII. He’s since been hired to write and helm the upcoming Jurassic World. It’s certainly a big jump from this film, which was made for less than a million dollars, and while it is technically sci-fi, for most of its running time it plays out as an indie rom com.
The always excellent Aubrey Plaza is Darius, an intern on a Seattle magazine who’s agrees to go along with one of the journalists, Jeff (Jake Johnson), to investigate a story about an odd classified ad in a newspaper, where someone is looking for a companion to go time-travelling with him. Jeff, Darius and another intern, Arnau (Karan Soni), head off to find out who this person is, whether they believe what they’re saying, if they’re having a joke or if they’re just nuts.
It turns out the advertiser is Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a rather paranoid man convinced that some sort of agents are following him. He immediately rejects Jeff as his potential companion but decides Darius may be the one, not knowing she’s just there to write an article about him. Darius soon begins to warm to Kenneth, who starts to open up about why he’s doing what he says he’s doing. Although she initially assumes his time-travel talk is complete nonsense, Darius can’t help but start to wonder if there’s actually something to it.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a fun, entertaining movie that mixes different genres to create something that feels surprisingly fresh, even if when you look at it, the plot is actually pretty old (some have even said it’s essentially She’s All That with a sci-fi twist). It helps that the actors are good, as well as that Derek Connolly’s screenplay has a light touch and doesn’t feel the need to belabour the point or try so hard to be meaningful that it ends up feeling leaden.
There are moments where it gets a little too hipster cool for its own good, but these scenes are few are far between. Mostly though it’s just fun and intriguing as you try to work out whether Kenneth is nuts or not, and who it is who might be following him. There’s also the tension of the fact you know at some point he’s going to discover Darius hasn’t been honest with him.
Often with indie sci-fi it tries to be too clever for its own good, but Safety Not Guaranteed is more interested in what it is about sci-fi that people like – the chance of escape, as well as deciding whether you believe in the possibilities or not, and in this case, the different ways there may be of recapturing what’s been lost.
Overall Verdict: Safety Not Guaranteed has already shot Colin Trevorrow up the Hollywood ladder. You can see why as it’s a sweet, charming indie dramedy with a sci-fi edge, helped by a good script and some great actors.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac