Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)


Time travel has long been one of those subjects that fascinates filmmakers and writers. We’ve seen many a take on it, from Back To The Future to this year’s Looper, both of which use it differently. Now comes Safety Not Guaranteed, a lovely little film that puts time travel into the background to focus on the characters, something that works very well. Mark Duplass appears as Kenneth, a man who after posting an advert for a time travelling partner is tracked down by magazine writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) and his two interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni).

The best thing about this sweet film is the ambiguity which is clung to until the very last minute. Nothing is given away and everything is left up in the air until those final moments and it makes for a wonderful ninety minutes. Duplass plays up to the possibility that Kenneth is insane very well. His manic urgency is alarming but funny and makes you wonder what Darius has got herself into by befriending him. Equally, Jeff has his manic moments, but because he’s not banging on about time travel he appears as the more normal of the two. Both are as bad as each other, but neither is mad enough to convince you they have completely lost the plot. There’s only ever a small inkling, and as said before, nothing is revealed until the very last minute.

It follows the average story arch, with most of what happens being inevitable but such is the charm that it doesn’t matter. After all, a well made film is a well made film, and this is an utter joy to watch. Giving the characters more of a backstory, whilst taking up time from the time travel storyline, gives them more depth. You find yourself really caring about what happens to them and investing more in the short time you have with them. Whilst the premise of the film is about time travel, it’s really about how we perceive things that are not normal. No one believes Kenneth can actually do it and the doubt translates onto the audience as well.  A man claiming to be able to travel through time isn’t normal, but the way the film makes the audience question both him and the more “normal” Jeff throughout is excellent. The only niggle, and it’s a tiny one, is Jake Johnson is apparently unable to play anyone other than Nick from New Girl.

Everything about Safety Not Guaranteed is charming, lovely and funny. It will put a huge smile on your face and grow on you even more after the credits have rolled. Plaza and Duplass have a wonderful chemistry and the ambiguity of it all keeps things interesting. This is a great addition to the time travel genre and one which, with any luck, will be greatly enjoyed by all who see it.

Safety Not Guaranteed is released in cinemas on 26th December 2012.

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Derek Connolly
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson
Runtime: 86 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★½

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