Film Critic

Chuck Koplinski is The News-Gazette's film critic. His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter (@ckoplinski).

Chaos Walking

Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley in a scene from ‘Chaos Walking.’

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Long before the COVID-19 outbreak caused the postponement of the entire slate of films for every Hollywood studio, Doug Liman’s “Chaos Walking” had already been shuffled from one release date to the next on at least three occasions.

What with initial photography completed in late 2017, Lionsgate ordered reshoots to be done in 2019 after disastrous test screenings.

Now it arrives in theaters as sort of a tepid enticement to lure viewers back the multiplex, a canary in the coalmine of sorts to see just how badly patrons want to pay for overpriced popcorn and see a Tinsel Town offering on the big screen.

Based on the novel “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness, “Chaos” is yet another YA dystopian novel that benefits greatly from being delayed.

What with “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and so many other films of this ilk hitting theaters en masse nearly a decade ago, audiences grew weary of the formulaic adaptations that flooded the market.

Ironically, enough time has passed that “Chaos” feels fresh as it proves to be an engaging well-made adventure that Liman keeps moving at a brisk pace, steadily building the tension and keeping us hooked with one interesting reveal after another.

The year is 2257, the place is New World, a colony on a distant planet inhabited solely by men.

Many years ago, not long after the initial landing, the newly-arrived Earthlings were attacked by an alien race that slaughtered all the women.

Adding to their woes, something in the atmosphere makes their thoughts visible to each other, which the men refer to as the noise. Needless to say, this makes them guarded — as much as they can be — repression being a way of life.

This society of roiling angst is thrown into turmoil when the only survivor of a scouting mission, Viola (Daisy Ridley), crash lands not far from the settlement.

Discovered by Todd (Tom Holland), an angry young man with little direction, he soon finds himself on the run with the displaced woman as the leader of the settlement (Mads Mikkelsen) sets out to apprehend her for nefarious purposes.

Holland and Ridley make for a solid screen couple, complimenting each other throughout, their give and take natural and engaging. Were they to make another film or three, you’d get no objections from me.

With Mikkelsen as well as Damian Bichir, Cynthia Erivo and David Oyelowo rounding out the cast, the acting requirements for the film are more than covered.

The production values are top-notch, the film looking far more expensive than its $125 million price tag, while the scope of the story is tailor-made for the big screen.

Perhaps my perspective is skewed from not having seen a movie like this in such a long time, but at times, it swept me away in the way only a big-budget Hollywood production can, and having gone so long without seeing films of this size, I welcomed it.

While the fact that the characters can see each other’s thoughts is intriguing, as executed on screen, it’s a mixed blessing.

Yes, it sets up an interesting plot twist here and there, but when heard, the dialogue comes off us muddled, eventually leading to a sense of frustration.

If Liman was intent on putting us in the shoes of the characters to experience this discordant element in their lives, he succeeded.

Unfortunately, it proves to be an unnecessary distraction to an otherwise finely made piece of entertainment.

In the end, “Chaos” is a timely cautionary tale that, thankfully, states its theme concerning the dangers of blindly following a merciless zealot clearly.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter @ckoplinski. His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com.

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