Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: Patrick Ness and Christopher Ford
Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley and Mads Mikkelson
Film Review by Robert Stayte
Chaos Walking has had a hard long road to the screen, the rights were bought 10 years ago, shooting did not begin until 2017 and it spent a couple of years in post, being dogged by reshoots after problematic test screenings. Despite this, the talent involved could have made something special, unfortunately, Chaos Walking is the opposite of special.
In 2257 AD, on a human colonised planet called New World, the men have been afflicted with a new evolution that makes their thoughts audible, with society’s women have been wiped out the native alien race. Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) comes across Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley), who has crash-landed in a colony ship after being in space for decades. They both end up going on a journey to keep Viola safe, with the sinister mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelson) pursuing them.
Chaos Walking certainly has remnants of an interesting storyline, but the final result is totally by the numbers in its story, not to mention uninventive and uninteresting. The troubled production does not show up much onscreen, but the reshoots and re-editing create a film that is coherent yet dull. The reveals are so stock and obvious that they are not surprising, and the film has a “location to location” chase narrative that so many other films have done before.
This could have been fine if the characters were interesting, but they are not. Todd is your standard “young person who learns that things are not what they seem” protagonist and Viola is a blank slate with a goal but no personality. Their relationship dynamic is also very predictable, with the only good choice being not to hook them up romantically. Villains Prentiss and Aaron (David Oyelowo) are incredibly one dimensional and just rely on the actors to bring any personality. Davy (Nick Jonas), Prentiss’s son, gets set up but ends up being worthless.
Doug Liman can make good and bad films, and this is by far one of his least impressive ones. His attempt at being gritty and low fi result in a supposed blockbuster that has no sense of scale and no impressive visuals. The whole thing is so low key and small that it could have easily been a TV pilot, especially seeing as how the entire thing takes place in the same woodland area. There is action on occasion but all of it is average and sometimes poorly filmed (a river fight especially), with an especially cheap climax and an abrupt ending. There is little sign of reshoots, aside from Ridley’s hair changing from braided at the beginning to bring down for the rest of the film, but the only stylistic flair is the “noise” element, but even that becomes distracting and annoying. If you want to hear the phrase “I’m Todd Hewitt” spoken 100 times, this is the movie for you.
As for the acting, that is also surprisingly poor. Holland and Ridley have little chemistry and individually their performances are lacking in investment. As a result, Holland’s accent slips and Ridley has the same expression on her face for most of the film. Nick Jonas is also expressionless and has a distracting haircut to boot. Mads Mikkelson cashes a pay-check playing a role he could do in his sleep. Demian Bichir as Todd’s father does the best job because he does put in more effort than the others.
Chaos Walking is not a disaster, but it is not worth watching. This is the definition of a dump film, something that started out with potential but ended up being worthless. Everyone involved can do so much better.