Chariot Image


By Sumner Forbes | April 12, 2022

Dreams and reincarnation are two very familiar components in science fiction. Filmmakers consistently go back to the well with these themes because, by their very nature, there lies the limitless potential for reinvention. As a result, the typical narrative guidelines can effectively go out the window, and what’s more fun than that? In Chariot, writer/director Adam Sigal goes for broke in a madcap sci-fi adventure across time and dreamscapes. He wins us over with a winsome young cast and a highly imaginative setting. Oh, and John Malkovich.

After beginning a century in the past with a lonely farmer dying from a terrible malady (accompanied by a creepy figure dressed like a 17th-century physician), Chariot flashforwards to the life of young Harrison Hardy (Thomas Mann), currently seeking therapy from somnology expert Dr. Karn (Malkovich) because of a recurring dream from his past that plagues his sleep. We then follow him on his journey as he rents a spartan, semi-furnished apartment in an otherwise quaint building.

That building turns to be filled with all manner of eccentrics, including a man that floats inexplicably, a young woman who splits her personality with an angry British man, and Maria. The fantastic Rosa Salazar plays the seductive actress whom Harrison quickly falls for. Surely, something is wrong with this place, and as Harrison continues to work through his dreams with Dr. Karn, the mysterious machinations of the plot will begin to unravel. What is the meaning of his dream? And how does it tie into the first chapter?

“…filled with all manner of eccentrics, including a man that floats inexplicably, a young woman who splits her personality with an angry British man…”

Mann, perhaps best known for his breakthrough role in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, works well in his role as Harrison, but much praise needs to be given to the underrated talent of Salazar. On a tear of late with the starring role in 2019’s critically acclaimed Alita: Battle Angel and Brand New Cherry Flavor, a criminally underseen show that is one of 2021’s best. She effortlessly switches from being endearing to someone that will kick your a*s, and I continue to look forward to her future roles. Malkovich goes all out and has apparently reached the stage of his illustrious career where he can play an off-the-wall psychologist with neon-red hair. He’s living his best life.

For all the limitless personality within Chariot, Sigal bites off more than he can chew in terms of the narrative. First, he adds a plethora of colorful characters, all with their own backstories that help contribute to the overall off-kilter feeling. Still, we kind of just leave them behind without a satisfying resolution to their inclusion. Second, the connective tissue of the overarching story between the chapters feels disjointed. When the reincarnation thread is reintroduced late in the film, it’s tonally awkward and feels almost like an add-on or afterthought. This is admittedly forgivable, though, because the extended sequences in the apartment complex are so enjoyable.

Chariot may not blow anyone away with its inventiveness, but it’s right at home in the family of darkly funny science fiction films that are enjoyable to watch late at night. Full of bizarre performances and a fair share of laughs, this is more than worth a look for those seeking an unorthodox treat.

Chariot (2022)

Directed and Written: Adam Sigal

Starring: Thomas Mann, Rosa Salazar, John Malkovich, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Chariot Image

"…full of bizarre performances and a fair share of laughs..."

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