“WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You get paid after we get back. Must bring our own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
Here’s what I wrote about this one in my original theatrical review:
“Safety Not Guaranteed is not your normal time travel comedy/drama/romance/mystery hybrid. To put it more bluntly, Back to the Future meets Somewhere in Time meets Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure this movie is not. It is, in fact, its own totally unique animal, Derek Connolly’s inspired script a winning, thought-provoking treat from start to finish that only gets better as it goes along.
So reads the personal ad [see synopsis] that sparks journalist Jeff’s (Jake Johnson) interest. A writer for a relatively major Seattle magazine, he’s ready to go on the road and find out exactly what it was that possessed the advertisement’s author, a mysterious relative nobody named Kenneth (Mark Duplass), to post it. Bringing along two interns, the quietly cynical Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and the bored, going through the motions wannabe biologist Arnau (Karan Soni), he sets out on a quest to do just that, curious about what they’ll discover yet oddly disinterested at the exact same time.
Turns out, once the trio hit the small community of Ocean View he’s got ulterior motives, searching out his ex-girlfriend Liz (Jenica Bergere) for reasons entirely his own. That leaves Darius to try and connect with Kenneth, her apathetic attitude about life, and more importantly his quest, endearing her to him for some strange reason leading the two into a realm of faith and trust neither every could have anticipated.
I’m in love with the film, plain and simple, there’s just no other way to put it. Connolly’s script has a ton on its mind, moves into some pretty unique places. It uses that legendary Pacific Northwest personal ad as its launching pad and then goes into explainable territory from there, everything that happens a waterfall of imagination and intrigue that continually held me idyllically fascinated.
But the reasons this melodious little puzzle box ends up working as well as it does has little to do with any of the script’s subtly engaging slight of hands or newbie director Colin Trevorrow’s confident handling of the material. It works because everything that happens is rooted in honest human emotions, cemented in actual lived-in authenticity that makes everything that happens, no matter how odd it gets, ring true in all the ways that matter. This is the kind of whimsical imbroglio that only gets better the more you thinks on it, and by the time the filmmakers reach their somewhat ethereal conclusion it almost doesn’t matter that the last third makes little to no sense whatsoever.
It’s also a great deal of fun watching how all the pieces end up fitting together. At first, the subplot concerning Jeff and Liz doesn’t seem to serve any sort of purpose and for a great deal of the film’s running time I was starting to wonder why Connolly bothered to come up with it. But as things progress this little side drama comes more and more into focus, and by the time the climax rolls around I was awestruck just how neatly all that was happening between the two mattered to the greater story at large.
Yet it is Duplass and especially Plaza who are this drama’s heart and soul, the dual-powered engines everything else is running upon. Watching them bond, seeing them size one another up as they make their way to a place of trust and commitment, all of it adds up to something magical, the pair achieving a melodious symmetry that’s as genuine as it is sublime.
A person can obviously make a lot out of the way the film comes to its conclusion, positives and negatives readily abound. For my part, I can’t imagine Safety Not Guaranteed going any other place than the strange, eerily beguiling realm it ultimately transported me to. Connolly proves himself to be an imaginative writer of consequence, while at the same time Trevorrow shows directorial chops far more seasoned than this project’s meager budget and independent pedigree would initially lead one to believe. They’ve crafted an imaginative flight of fancy I couldn’t get enough of, their intimately powerful journey through time and space an unusual marvel that’s as human as it is spectacular.”
Safety Not Guaranteed has stuck with me ever since that first viewing way back at the start of June. Watching it again on Blu-ray (twice in quick succession) I’m struck by just how perfectly all of this fits together, how the pieces all merge allowing the film to achieve a quiet emotional majesty I can’t help but adore. This is a great film, one that gets better and better the more I think about it, and I have this sneaky suspicion come the end of the year this little independently produced gem might just end up being one of the ten best I saw in all of 2012.
Safety Not Guaranteed is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and features optional English SDH subtitles.
Extras here include:
· A Movie Making Mission
· The Ad Behind the Movie
Both featurettes barely run ten minutes, yet each is quite interesting in their own right. “A Movie Making Mission” is pretty standard yet it’s still nice listening to director Colin Trevorrow and company speaking as to what drew them to the project. The real star here is “The Ad Behind the Movie,” analyzing the real classified ad that inspired writer Derek Connolly to take this flight of fancy.
Did I want more? Yes, especially considering I interviewed Trevorrow back during the Seattle International Film Festival and I know personally he has plenty to say about the film and its making. Still, these two featurettes are very satisfying, and for a movie that met with such limited response (even though those who did see it in theatre tended to love it as much as I did) originally this Blu-ray is probably the best that could have been expected.
Here’s hoping Safety Not Guaranteed builds the sort of cult following that would result in some sort of special edition sometime in the future.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a small-scale gem with large-scale ambitions, ambitions director Colin Trevorrow, writer Derek Connolly and the rest of the cast and crew more or less meet. This movie is awesome, plain and simple, and here’s hoping it develops the sort of following on Blu-ray and DVD it deserved to find while it was playing in theatres earlier this summer.