Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

December 22, 2012 9:39 pm

Mark DuplassThe premise of this light-hearted comedy-drama is simple enough. Whilst working as an intern at a Seattle magazine, Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) gets roped in by a half-arsed, borderline-misogynistic journalist called Jeff (Jake M. Johnson of New Girl), to write a story on a man who, on the surface, comes across as certifiably insane. Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the man whose sanity is in question, attracts the attention of journalists and shady government agents alike, when he posts an ad in a local paper which reads:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.’

Darius, a quirky but cynical character, is enticed by Kenneth’s surreal but committed attitude to the task at hand; travelling back in time for what he claims to be ‘personal reasons’, when she becomes embroiled in his mammoth training operation having responded to his ad in hope of uncovering a story. We follow the pair as Kenneth puts Darius through martial arts and gun training–their destination is the early 2000s and not a Skynet dominated future wasteland–and for the most part these scenes do include some truly comical and touching moments.

Jake M. JohnsonThe focus quickly shifts to the piece’s poignant subtext; a reflection on memory, and the often impossible naive desire to recapture or alter the past. Jeff’s parallel narrative (attempting to reconnect with a past love interest) highlights this well, and is perhaps the most genuine facet of the film. The time-travel element of the narrative is largely dismissed as a simple plot device to pair these disenchanted characters, something which really bolsters its indie, low-fi charm.

Unfortunately, the subtleties and grace of the majority of the film are corrupted by an evidently rushed and garish third act, which unceremoniously wraps things up in a matter of what must be ten minutes. It feels like a wasted opportunity. Without giving away exactly what happens, any audience, in my mind, would be left feeling slightly cheated by what appears to be a monumental shift in tone and style in its closing moments.

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