Chaos Walking is a science fiction action adventure set on a distant planet known as New World in the year 2257. The male settlers are constantly bombarded with the thoughts of others in the settlement. These take the form of an unrelenting cacophony of sounds and visions, called The Noise. It drove the men insane because women could also hear and see their thoughts, although the women’s internal utterances remained hidden. Although the women were killed off, the men remain tortured by the endless barrage of their thoughts come to life.
One of those plagued is Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland), who has two adoptive fathers. He discovers Viola Eade (Daisy Ridley), a mysterious young woman who has crash landed on the planet and vows to protect her. But the leader of Hewitt’s settlement, the Mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen) – who has managed to master his thoughts – is out to destroy Eade. Amongst his clan trying to track down Hewitt and Eade, who have scarpered, is a violent preacher, Aaron (David Oyelowo), whose “noise” is a swarming, flaming mass of fire.
Patrick Ness is the author of The Knife of Never Letting Go on which Chaos Walking is based. That was published in 2008 and drew attention for its central construct – an inventive extrapolation of a world under siege from information overload. While I appreciated the notion of an emotional dystopia, which is at the movie’s core, I was underwhelmed by the film, the screenplay for which was written by Patrick Ness and Christopher Ford.
The constant “noises” – one voice interfering with another and ethereal visions – irritated me. As clever as the concept is, it became yet another chase movie. Eade was a target and Hewitt latched onto her. Very straightforward. And that is notwithstanding the fact that a little humour was drawn from the fact that Hewitt’s “noise” couldn’t help but show – to Hewitt’s eternal embarrassment – that he fancied Eade. I can’t say there was any point where I really latched on to the characters as I didn’t feel particularly invested in their journey, which amounted to a series of “trials”.
So, while the premise was futuristic, its treatment was entirely predictable. I didn’t think there was a lot to get terribly excited by. Director Doug Liman (American Made) has crafted a one-trick pony that grated on me. Although, in fairness, perhaps a younger generation – at whom the film is clearly aimed – may get more out of it than I did.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.