out of Five
Running time: 112
Essentially a Spielberg-sanctioned Spielberg pastiche, Super 8 is a hugely entertaining sci-fi thriller, thanks to a strong script, impressive special effects, pacey direction and terrific performances from its likeable young cast.
What's it all about?
Directed by JJ Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, Super 8 is set in 1979 Ohio and stars Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb, a young boy who has recently lost his mother in an industrial accident at the local factory. Distracting himself by getting involved in making a zombie movie with his best pal Charles (Riley Griffiths) and their group of friends (Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso and Zach Mills), they also secure the participation of Charles and Joe's mutual dream girl Alice (Elle Fanning). The gang then head out to a deserted station to film an important scene, but events take an unpredictable turn when they witness a horrific train crash.
When the military descend on their town, the gang quickly realise that something strange is going on and that their as-yet-undeveloped super 8 camera footage might hold a vital clue. However, they have to keep one step ahead of fierce General Nelec (Noah Emmerich), who's aware that someone witnessed the train crash.
The performances are excellent, particularly newcomer Courtney, who's charming and engaging as Joe, generating strong chemistry with both Griffiths and Fanning. Similarly, Fanning cements her reputation as one of Hollywood's most exciting young actresses with an utterly captivating performance that's certain to win her legions of young fans; her extraordinary talent is directly acknowledged by the film in its best scene, when her acting ability in their zombie flick momentarily renders all the boys dumbstruck.
The script is superb, with several delightful in-jokes and a lot of humour; essentially, this is a Spielberg-sanctioned mash-up of The Goonies, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but it's also fresh enough so that it feels like an original story in its own right.
Abrams' pacey direction ensures that there's never a dull moment and he orchestrates some terrific action sequences, most notably the jaw-dropping train crash set piece, but also a thrilling chase scene and several other tense moments. The effects are extremely good too and there's a superb score from Michael Giacchino to boot.
In short, this is a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi adventure thriller that will provide a delightful nostalgia hit for older viewers while enthralling younger ones. Highly recommended. Also, don't leave before the credits end, as you get to see the zombie movie in its entirety.