Super 8 (2011)
Directed by J.J. Abrams
With a rich appreciation for classic cinema, J.J. Abrams’ newest directorial achievement comes as a welcome relief to the mostly older and/or less-than-stellar films I had seen recently. Also written by Abrams, Super 8 introduces to the world a new generation of actors and actresses, as well as some familiar faces.
When Joe (Joel Courtney), Alice (a wonderful Elle Fanning), and friends go on location at a deserted train station to film for a new amateur zombie movie, they are almost met with an untimely death when a train derails, flinging cargo across the vast plains. Soon after, the town is riddled with disappearances of dogs, electronics, and townspeople. The local militiamen seem to have control, but do they know something the town doesn’t? May these disappearances all trace back to them? What will become of the town, and will they rely on five kids to discover the truth? Who will be killed in the process?
With a group of young talents, some of which making their cinematic debut, Super 8 introduces the world to faces like Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths, and really puts an actress like Elle Fanning (Dakota’s younger sister) in the spotlight. The young stars shined. Fanning and Courtney were especially wonderful, with chemistry rare for actors so young. Faces like Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show) may look more familiar, making their acting prowess less of a surprise but no less of an achievement.
While some of the scenes, even those unaffected by a sci-fi element, come off as rather unbelievable—you’ll be shouting “He couldn’t have survived that!” multiple times—the extremely believable graphic effects counterbalance them. With such great effects, and such tremendous abilities for suspense, Abrams could have made quite a terrifying horror flick if he intended to. Instead, he stuck with the more respectable sci-fi/thriller genre, probably upping the viewership and profit, and definitely helping an already-renowned resume.
Effective long shots and upward angles contribute to the greatness of the cinematography, led by Larry Fong (300). Music directs the suspense as the violin strings tighten and the pitch rises. Lighting (and then lack thereof, as the town loses power) is perfect. Technically, the film is great. I mean, Spielberg only produces what he likes, so it has to be of “mint” quality.
Super 8 is a must-see, with amazing technical specs, a cast of up-and-comers, and a brilliant script (not to mention editing!), and it’s now on DVD and Blu-ray.