Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2011. Paramount Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Bad Robot, K/O Camera Toys. Screenplay by J.J. Abrams. Cinematography by Larry Fong. Produced by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Steven Spielberg. Music by Michael Giacchino. Production Design by Martin Whist. Costume Design by Ha Nguyen. Film Editing by Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2011.
A group of pre-teens in 1979 small town Ohio are busy making a zombie movie at a train station, but their playful fun turns dangerous when they witness a terrible accident involving a freight train (and, if these visual effects are to be believed, they possess some incredibly good luck in outliving an Armageddon of destruction around them when the cars explode everywhere). The days pass and these winsome kids try to get back to their lives, but strange incidents involving missing citizens begin to occur, and our little heroes begin to suspect that the train accident is connected to the unleashing of some unknown terror in their town. Fresh faces, engaging characters and a retro look that attempts to capture the flavor of summer movies of its period are in good supply here, with director J.J. Abrams mashing up elements of Stand By Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws while never letting the film’s personalities be overshadowed by its gimmicks. It boils down to a disappointing last third, however, as the revelation of what has been causing all the trouble turns out to be neither awe-inspiring, scary or even interesting, but up until that point you will not regret having stayed in your seat. All the kids are terrific, with Elle Fanning a surprising standout as the deeply troubled young lady who has seen enough of the troubles of adult life to dread the onset of womanhood.