‘Chaos Walking’ review: The sound of a wasted opportunity

This underwhelming dystopian saga lets down its strong cast and source material

The fact that Chaos Walking is based on Patrick Ness’s eponymous YA trilogy is established at the beginning of the film with the line from the books, “The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”

Based on the first book in the trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008), Chaos Walking is underwhelming, letting down its strong cast and equally robust source material. In the future, there is nowhere town without women; where men’s thoughts are on display for all to see. We learn that the men are afflicted by Noise and the women were killed by aliens called Spackle.

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Todd (Tom Holland) lives in Prentisstown with his adoptive fathers, Ben (Demián Bichir) and Cillian (Kurt Sutter) and his dog, Manchee. Todd steers clear Aaron (David Oyelowo), a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Todd’s world turns upside down when a young woman, Viola, (Daisy Ridley) crash lands into Prentisstown. Suddenly Todd begins to question everything he took to be true.

Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen) wants to capture Viola as he fears she will expose all the lies he has been telling the townsfolk. Todd helps her escape. The movie lumbers along, with Viola and Todd running and fighting and running again. One does not feel the two are in very great danger — maybe because Spider-Man and the last Jedi cannot come to much harm.

‘Chaos Walking’

  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Cast: Daisy Ridley, Tom Holland, Mads Mikkelsen, Demián Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, David Oyelowo
  • Story line: Boy meets girl in a future where women can read men’s thoughts while being opaque themselves
  • Run time: 109 minutes

There are concepts that are vaguely touched upon — from gender equality to colonialization (when Todd calls the Spackle aliens, Viola corrects him saying ‘we are the aliens, they are native to the planet’). If Doug Liman (Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) felt that high concepts have no space in an action movie, he should have gone for broke with wall-to-wall action.

Instead, the movie moves in fits and starts in some beautiful locations (Scotland and Iceland). Maybe it would be better to read the book instead, unless you want to watch a buff Holland, Ridley again get the better of all the so-called powerful men and Nick Jonas play Davy, the Mayor’s bratty son. Incidentally, animals come to sticky ends.

‘Chaos Walking’ is currently running in theatres

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