VOD film review: Chaos Walking
Ivan Radford | On 02, Apr 2021
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir, David Oyelowo, Nick Jonas
Imagine a world where you could hear every man’s thoughts out loud. Now imagine why anyone would want to spend a second in it. That’s the problem facing Chaos Walking, Doug Liman’s latest ambitious sci-fi thriller, which can’t find a way to make its premise interesting.
The tale is set on a planet that humans have colonised, only to catch an incurable virus that turns every bloke’s inner monologue into something that’s broadcast to everyone around them whether they want to hear it or not – a lot like Twitter, but with added visualisations from Windows Media Player.
The concept, which fuelled the trilogy by the insightful author Patrick Ness, never quite works on the screen, although that’s not the fault of the cast. Tom Holland leads the ensemble as Todd Hewitt, a young man who is stunned when he comes across Viola (Daisy Ridley), the sole survivor from a crashed spaceship and – thanks to the female human population on this world being wiped out – the only woman on the planet. And so Todd tries to keep Violet hidden and safe from the fur-clad Mayor who leads this civilisation, played with swaggering machismo by Mads Mikkelsen.
But what might be a fun recipe for some awkward romance or a tense chase – Todd’s tactic to try and stop people hearing his thoughts is to repeat his name over and over to himself (spoiler: it doesn’t work) – is never developed, which makes the whole thing awkwardly blunt and oddly un-entertaining.
Liman, who has a knack for balancing action with slow-paced character moments (see Edge of Tomorrow and even the coronavirus pandemic heist flick Locked Down), struggles to conjure up fun, suspense or brooding drama from Ness and Christopher Ford’s script, which stretches out for almost two hours when the chaos should be running to a dark climactic showdown. As an alternative to an evening spent on Twitter surrounded by shouting men, Chaos Walking has some value. As a piece of entertainment, it’s a curiously missed opportunity.