Sometimes what sounds good on paper does not necessarily translate well past that. What is worse than an idea that doesn’t fully flourish is when the plot description that is plastered over the internet gives away the entire movie itself to anyone looking for that project. Adam Sigal’s Chariot is plagued with exactly that. Audiences expect one movie while reading the plot description, but while watching the movie they get something they weren’t expecting. While stated rather early in the film, the idea just never gets going until the tail end of the third act, which becomes a much more interesting and engaging story. If that is where Chariot started instead of ended, the results would be much more rewarding.
The film focuses on Harrison Hardy (Thomas Mann), who has been experiencing the same weird dream for what feels like an eternity. Upon this realization of continuously experiencing this dream, he checks himself into a hotel while getting help from Dr. Karn (John Malkovich). However, this hotel is not ordinary, it is filled with tons of people who all suffer from some form of mental anguish that they cannot shake, similar to Harrison. While staying there, facing a moral dilemma of whether or not to remove someone’s laundry from the wash that has been sitting there long past its cycle has ended, Harrison meets Maria (Rosa Salazar). While they hit it off, certain things start to unfold and makes life for Harrison and, moreover, Dr. Karn more difficult.
The issue with Chariot aside from the script giving away the entire plot from its synopsis, is that it never gets to really do anything interesting with it. The idea of reincarnation is that of serious intrigue but failing to capitalize on that intrigue is the movie’s biggest sin. There is so much that can be explored with reincarnation from either a moral standpoint or a science fiction stand point, but instead its muddled with unengaging melodrama and motivation. That is, until the third act, where things really start to pick up and become captivating and interesting.
Aside from the scriptural issues, the performances are not doing any favours to the film or the audience either. John Malkovich, who has more than proven himself to be a great actor, delivers the most uninspired personality with a sheer lack of any form audiences have ever seen from him. There is no finishing touches to his performances; it feels like a paycheque roll, which is really disappointing, because during his low screen time he could’ve tried to inject some life into the first 70 or so minutes of this feature. Thomas Mann and Rosa Salazar, try to bring chemistry to their characters and even more so their performance, but it is another swing and a miss. Despite these characters being lovers in a former life, there is such a lack of chemistry and connection between the two that it really is insulting to ask the audience to believe there was ever anything that once stood there.
Chariot tries to be something smart, genuine, and engaging, and if the entire movie was the final 30-or-so minutes, then it has something to at least say even without a backstory to support any of it. However, when a movie drags for so long and then decides to bunt the ball after two strikeouts, it doesn’t look pretty, nor does it always work. Sure, you might get to first base, but getting home is a whole different ball game. Partner the muddled script with performances that are uninspired and lackluster and the third act is the only thing that truly captures your attention if you make it that far.
In theaters, on VOD, and digital April 15th, 2022.
Final Score: 2 out of 5.