Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Safety Not Guaranteed


Younger viewers will probably not understand why one aspect of this movie depressed me a bit. Here we have a guy who claims he has built a time machine. And he plans to go back into the past with it … back, back, back in time, into the far distant past …

… to 2001.

Holy shit! To young people today, 2001 is way back in the past. They don’t recall just how far, far distant 2001 seemed when we sat down in the theaters in 1968 to view Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. Look at that! Space stations, colonies on the moon, trips to Jupiter in gigantic ships! Well, only the space station part has happened here in the real 2012, but at the time it all seemed possible in just 33 years.

Sigh. I’m old.

Okay, on to the movie itself. I think it’s a little gem, of the sort I love to see, by relative newcomers on a budget of only $750,000. It is science fiction, and it’s also a romantic comedy that works very well, both because of a good, witty script and good work by Mark Duplass and the lovely Aubrey Plaza (who sounds more like a place than a person, and I’m sure she’s very tired of hearing that) as a young, rather depressed, wannabe journalist named Darius.

The idea is simple, and great. Someone places the following classified ad:

WANTED: Someone 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.

A Seattle magazine gets interested (and this must be the only movie ever shot in Seattle that never shows the Space Needle!), and sends one writer and two interns to ferret out the story. What’s with the guy? What kind of nut is he? As we go along and follow the romance that develops between the time traveler and Darius, one question keeps circling around in my brain: Does he really have a time machine? And another: if he doesn’t, is the story still science fiction? Long before the question was settled (right at the end, naturally), I decided that it was SF either way, crazy or real. The theme was enough for me. And I was delighted right through the fade to black, which is very rare.