REVIEW: Safety Not Guaranteed (2011)

Three magazine journalists head to a secluded small town to investigate the person who submitted a classified ad that reads: “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.”

The uniquity of Safety Not Guaranteed is in how it subverts your expectations. It seems so easy for this film to have dealt with the quest and the characters differently. When the gambit of time travel is thrown down in this little backwater Americana you expect that their journalistic goal is exploitation. By interviewing the ad’s author they’re bound to uncover his delusion like the beginnings of an Australian/American Idol – and publish a ceremonial humiliation. However, at every turn, there’s a care and humanity with how the filmmakers deal with the characters in this fantastical situation

Connolly’s script is extraordinary. There’s a decisive execution and timing in giving each character the perfect time to resonate with you and a collision between sarcasm and sincerity that fires throughout. It elevates the key theme of time-travel films, regret. There’s desperation for all the character’s to change their course. Trevorrow languishes in the uniquely American quaint locale and crafts sensationally timed wry comedic performances.

Jake M. Johnson’s douchebag team leader Jeff, begins exploiting this situation on all fronts. It’s an opportunity to satisfy his own whims by re-kindling a relationship with his former high school flame while exploiting his underlings to do the work. And while his character may affront some, the desperation inevitable failure rang so true for me in his performance that I couldn’t help but empathize. Aubrey Plaza has a comedic persona that perfectly juggles that sarcasm/sincerity tone of Darius while being able to play faux espionage to get closer to Mark Duplass’ Kenneth. I don’t think that it’s possible for Duplass to act without sincerity. His cultivated improvisational and naturalistic process brings a clunky imperfection in his manner that enriches Kenneth and makes him likeable.

Safety Not Guaranteed yearns for the possibility of changing your fate but without the guarantee of certainty. You can feel Trevorrow and Connolly’s love for the normal people and real emotions at the centre of this extraordinary situation. It’s a warm, fuzzy indie and a covert sci fi triumph. 

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here.

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Written by: Derek Connolly

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Jake M. Johnson, Mark Duplass and Karan Soni

Safety Not Guaranteed is released in Australia on October the 18th.