#REVIEW: “CHAOS WALKING”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
In the distant future, humans have looked to colonize on new planets and the all-male colony living in the New World have been afflicted with something referred to as ‘The Noise’ which manifests one’s thoughts for everyone to see and hear. Todd (Tom Holland) yearns to both control his noise and to impress the local mayor David (Mads MIkkelsen). When a spaceship crash-lands near his farm and the lone survivor is a young woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley), Todd initially wants to prove his worth with the mayor – but learns quickly that in order for Viola to survive, he must help her escape.
The trip CHAOS WALKING took from principal production in 2017 to final product in 2021 is tumultuous at best. Knowing all the behind the scenes drama makes the Film incredibly difficult to watch and not notice glaring continuity issues, mismatched scenes filmed years apart and a booming score with no discernable idea of what Film it belongs to. Is it Science-Fiction? Is it a Western? Is it trying to smash both genres together unsuccessfully at the same time? Suffice to say, CHAOS WALKING is a mess. Yet the Film is never boring and has multiple brushes with greatness. Some of the more elaborate set pieces are genuinely exciting, only to be cut too short. And the central conceit of ‘The Noise’ is quite fascinating in small doses. Sadly, it feels like no one had any idea what to do with it after it is first explained and completely abandoned explaining it further just like so many other plot threads.
Despite what you may have heard, Holland and Ridley are totally fine in their roles. Yes, their characters are barely rounded and their dialogue is far from Shakespearean, but they both deliver decent performances under crippling conditions. If they had substantially better chemistry, they could have at least made up for some of the film’s shortcomings. I dug supporting turns from Nick Jonas and Demián Bichir, and wish they had a whole lot more to do. Not surprisingly however, the most compelling character and performance comes from Mikkelsen. Like the Film itself, he has a bit of an identity crisis in most scenes, yet somehow manages to dig as deep as he can to breathe life into his dastardly character. The Film’s choppy nature works wonders for him, making his intentions and motivations practically sing. Though the Third Act betrays his character, everything leading up to it is a whole lot of Mads acting circles around a bad situation.
I am saddened to say that CHAOS WALKING was never able to become what it set out to be instead of literally living up to its name. There are some great ideas scattered throughout, and a delightfully untamed performance at its centre from the ever-reliable Mikkelsen. I wish it were better. It deserved to be better. And in a whole other universe, it has already been spun off into a mega franchise.
eOne Films released CHAOS WALKING on Digital and On-Demand Friday, April 23, 2021.