Movie Review: Super 8

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Rated: M
Director : J.J. Abrams
Starring : Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Gabriel Basso, Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills and Amanda Michalka.
Running Time : 111 minutes
Release Date : 9th June 2011

In 1979 in a small town in Ohio, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is a 13-year-old boy whose mother died in an accident at the local steel mill where she worked.

His dad Jackson (Kyle Chandler), the town Deputy, is always working and can’t seem to spend regular time with Joe.

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When the summer break begins, Joe and his friends get together to shoot a low budget zombie movie on Super 8 film.  Also joining them as their only girl is Alice (Elle Fanning), who Joe secretly likes.

While shooting at an old train depot, Joe witnesses a truck drive onto the tracks towards an oncoming train, causing a massive derailment, unleashing something terrible.

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While executive produced by Steven Spielberg, writer-director JJ Abrams (creator of Alias and Lost) successfully resuscitates the deadened sci-fi adventure mode from Spielberg’s earlier films which were also about single parent families, a small town in danger and kids hiding big secrets from parents and the authorities.

All of these familiar themes come together in a rare, exciting, suspenseful yet comfortable piece of mainstream entertainment.

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Abrams does a spellbinding job at writing characters filled with warmth and empathy.  The child actors are a great ensemble as budding filmmakers and friends sheltered with a deadly secret.  The chemistry between Joe and Alice is a smart and tender portrait of adolescence.  Kyle Chandler is a major plus as Joe’s dad and there are many supporting characters and back stories at the heart of this film.

Abrams also does a brisk job at handling the thrills and suspense.  The train crash sequence is loud and aggressive in terms of special effects and direction.

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Although there are kids in this movie, this is not exactly a movie for kids because the frights are sometimes higher than in Jurassic Park.  We witness some characters getting killed by the ‘thing’ without actually seeing it until the climax at the end.

The film also looks great shot in grainy, saturated colours giving the movie a 70s feel and the medium close-up of characters helps emphasise expressions and emotion.

Super 8 is a prime example of taking something old in Hollywood and translating it into something smart and exciting for modern audiences.

4/5 stars

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