Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley co-star in Chaos Walking, a sci-fi western adventure from director Doug Liman. Adapted from Patrick Ness’s (who also co-wrote the screenplay) young adult novel The Knife of Never Letting Go, the flick sees Viola (Ridley) as the sole survivor of a scouting mission to an Earth-like planet, where colonies have already been established. It’s up to farmhand Todd (Holland) – alongside his adorable dog sidekick – to escort Viola to a place where she can contact her ship for help. The catch, however, is that there are no women in this settlement and the planet allows the males to hear each other’s thoughts, which emanate from their heads as pulsating apparitions known as “The Noise”.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Charlie Kauffman was originally attached to pen this screenplay back in 2011. After Kauffman’s departure, the project was passed between various other writers and endured numerous re-writes. It began filming in 2017, only for re-shoots to take place in 2019 before its release in 2021. It’s no secret that the production of this project was troubled, and it shows. The result is a muddle of half-baked ideas and motivations that never take a solid form. It takes a sizeable half-hour of establishing the old-timey, dystopian world before the plot kicks in. And even then, it’s predominately Ridley and Holland being ushered to different places to give their characters something to occupy themselves with.
Both stars work well enough onscreen together; they even share some genuinely moving moments. But it’s clear that the pair are phoning it in, giving minimal effort until their characters have something interesting to do. Even with the mens’ thoughts are on full display, they just aren’t interesting. Rather than giving viewers an insight into who Todd really is, his thoughts only consist of describing what’s already visible onscreen (“It’s Viola. Why’s she here?” or “I am Todd Hewitt”). Likewise, the villain (a power-hungry mayor played by Mads Mikkelsen) doesn’t have any clear reason for wanting to stop the heroes from contacting the ship. He just doesn’t, and that’s his entire motivation. There’s simply nothing engaging about the script.
Chaos Walking is supposed to be the start of a trilogy. The best thing to come out of this film is that its dismal reception may mean the sequels will never be made. One can only hope that’s the case.
Chaos Walking is released digitally on demand on 2nd April 2021.
Watch the trailer for Chaos Walking here: