(director: Doug Liman; screenwriters: based upon the book “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness, Patrick Ness,  Christopher Ford; cinematographer: Ben Seresin; editor: Doc Crotzer; music: Brandon Roberts/Marco Beltrami; cast: Tom Holland (Todd), Daisy Ridley (Viola), Demián Bichir (Ben), Nick Jonas (Davy Prentiss Jr.),  David Oyelowo (Aaron), Mads Mikkelsen (Mayor Prentiss), Kurt Sutter (Cillian), Cynthia Erivo (Hildy), Ray McKinnon (Matthew); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Doug Davison, Allison Shearmur, Erwin Stoff, Alison Winter; Bron Studios; 2021-Canada/USA)

“A watchable stinker.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bummer adventure/sci-fi film directed with unneeded competence by Doug Liman (“The Edge of Tomorrow”/”Swingers”). It’s based upon the bestselling YA book “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness, with writers Ness and Christopher Ford. It has all the earmarks of being a camp cult film. It’s a must for those who get off on bad films that tickle their uncritical side.

The film takes place in the year 2257, in an all male town called Prentisstown, as all of the women were killed there by the Spackle, a native race of malevolent aliens. The town operates as a civilized place of all males, who communicate by making a noise (the noise is a mist of thoughts and fears that will reveal their innermost secrets if not controlled). It’s a weird place where the settlers can all hear — and sometimes see — each other’s thoughts.

The sensitive twenty-something resident of Prentisstown, Todd (Tom Holland), its youngest citizen, is attracted by the silence of a recent colonizer, the attractive teenage, Viola (Daisy Ridley), whose scout spacecraft crash lands near the farm of Todd’s two dads (Demián Bichir, Kurt Sutter) who raised him. Todd hides his feelings about her from the others by covering his thoughts and by saying over and over “My name is Todd Hewitt” to himself. She’s with a second wave of potential colonizers who want to settle in the planet called the New World (which is a 64 year journey from Earth).

But Prentisstown’s scheming mayor (Mads Mikkelsen), who the town is named after, is a bad dude on a bad trip and targets her spacecraft as being unwanted here. The women are silent creatures, and can’t communicate via “a noise.”

The heavy-handed film unfortunately discards a lot of the charms of its young runaway lead characters to instead show mostly the mayhem.

The reward, if any, in this movie made with a bloated $100m budget and many rewrites since it was shot in 2017, is that it turned out to be a watchable stinker. A film that should have been worse, but is almost saved as a lovable mess because the drivel it provides is just enough escapist entertainment to make it palpable.

It was stupid fun watching the characters communicate by voice-over, accompanied by wispy purple clouds of thought. It was trippy, cartoonish and would have been perfect for midnight showings if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. So do what you have to do to enjoy it at home, without bringing together a crowd. 

Chaos Walking