Super 8 * * * *

Genre: Action/Drama

Director: J.J. Abrams  

Writer: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Gabriel Basso, Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Amanda Michalka

Running Length: 112 minutes

Synopsis: In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8mm movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy (Kyle Chandler) tries to uncover the truth – which is more terrifying than any of them could have possibly imagined… 

Review: Super 8 is a movie that defies easy classification – it’s an old school creature feature, a coming of age movie, a teen romance and a nostalgic homage to the era that many of us are familiar with – and perhaps only the talented J. J. Abrams could have pulled it off with such panache. Make no mistake: Super 8 has become the movie to beat this summer season, a film that perfectly balances action, sci-fi, romance, comedy and drama, and augmented by some fine performances and great dialogue to boot. It may come as little surprise that the executive producer of the film is Steven Spielberg, because this is practically a loving tribute to Spielberg’s earlier canon of work. 

Part of the fun of Super 8 is finding out what exactly happens in the little town of Lillian and the film’s protagonists, so to delve any further into the plot would be rather spoilerly. Suffice to say, however, that not only is the central mystery a fun one to figure out (and really wouldn’t take too much brain power), even the film’s subplots are interesting and involving, and everything is paced so well that it’s hard to imagine that the person responsible for such movie magic only has three films under his belt (to be fair Abrams has had a long and rather successful TV career before this). The only criticism that can be levelled at the film would be for the denouement – it ends a little too abruptly, and the conclusion is so soft, cuddly and Spielbergian that it almost descends into the realm of parody. 

Despite the old-school sensibilities of Super 8, the film boasts some cutting edge visual effects and fantastic action set pieces, none more impressive than the heart-stopping train crash that occurs early on in the film. It’s hands down one of the most intense action sequences I’ve seen played out, and the level of realism is incredible. The monster animation isn’t quite as successful, but perhaps this is due more to the film being somewhat of a facsimile of old creature films, and the animation is intended to be cheesier. 

Special mention must be made of the child actors in Super 8, who give stellar performances and are very much a big part of the reason why the film is so engaging. Elle Fanning is very impressive (and there’s even a memorable “performance of a performance” early on), but even the less famous child actors manage to deliver. The fact that audiences will almost certainly become vested in these children is core to the film’s emotional resonance, and only with such unexpectedly great acting does the entire film come into its own as first-rate.  

Super 8 is a great film that holds wide appeal to both young and old viewers, but one wonders if the typical attention-deficit cinemagoer will eschew this film for the more famous faces and stories that other summer blockbusters would boast of. Those that do take the plunge, however, will find themselves (and their inner child) richly rewarded with one of the best cinematic experiences of the year so far. One last thing – remember to stay for the first part of the end credits for a very, very enjoyable short film that is guaranteed to make you leave the cinema with a smile on your face. 

Rating: * * * *(out of four stars)

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