Review: Chaos Walking

Directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow / The Bourne Identity), Chaos Walking stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley fleeing for their lives from the tyrannical mayor of a small settlement, played by Mads Mikkelsen. Set on a distant world in the year 2257 where the thoughts of men can be heard aloud by anyone in a close enough proximity, the film itself is an adaption of The Knife of Never Letting Go, a novel from British writer Patrick Ness.

While there is a lot to like about Chaos Walking, every positive does have a negative. Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley give really solid performances throughout but Mads Mikkelsen feels weak, underutilised and is nowhere near as menacing or intimidating as he’s probably supposed to be. The world itself seems intriguing enough but it is never really expanded on in a satisfying way.

Keeping the above in mind, the biggest flaw that Chaos Walking has is actually supposed to be the main hook of the film – The Noise. From beginning to end we see a coloured aura around our male characters as visual representation of their internal thoughts manifesting externally and while at first I did believe this to be just something for the audience, it becomes apparent quite quickly the characters in the world see these auras as well.

The Noise is never fully defined at any point though. It can be something as simple as hearing someone’s internal monologue as they make their way through the world or it could be manifesting images in the mind of another to make them see what you want them to see. As such, the Noise is something that is projected by one individual rather than something that is perceived by another which is all well and good but I think they could have done more with it as it really is a cool concept with so much storytelling potential.

Plus, to be honest after a while, it just becomes a little annoying.

Story wise, the film isn’t anything special and it is fairly serviceable but much like the Noise, it could have been expanded and fleshed out a little more. The film comes in at just over 90mins and it could easily have done with at least an additional 25mins to allow some extra time for character development and world building. Some of the scenes feel like they’ve been edited down just a little too much and we’re never really given any real time to let any of the scenes or characters breathe before we’re hurried along to the next scene.

I’ve never read The Knife of Never Letting Go, but after watching this I wouldn’t mind picking it up but based solely on what I’ve seen here I think may it may have been better suited to a limited series on Netflix or Amazon or something like that.

In theory, Chaos Walking should have been a recipe for greatness but in practice the execution could have a bit better. It isn’t a bad film by any stretch, but I wouldn’t go out your way on this one.

by Edward Laing