Where do I even begin? Everything Everywhere All at Once comes from the minds of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man, 2016). This sci-fi action/adventure follows a Chinese immigrant who is thrown into a crazy adventure in which she jumps through the infinite timelines of the multiverse. Sounds insane? That’s because it is!
This rollercoaster ride kicks off at a blistering pace. Not a second is wasted in setting up the story – it’s a constant flow of dialogue going from one conversation to the next with hardly a cut. Not only is it efficient in moving things along quickly, it sets the tone and pace for what to expect going forward. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it approach is brilliantly executed and absolute mayhem from the very beginning. The good kind of mayhem. It somehow moves along incredibly fast without ever feeling rushed or like it’s glossing over key bits of information. Every piece of info about the laws of this world is delivered succinctly and to-the-point, setting up a narrative that’s incredibly complex yet simple to follow at the same time. It just goes to show the strength of the writing – every second of runtime is well-utilised and not a single line of dialogue is a throwaway – everything has a purpose.
The brilliance doesn’t stop with the film’s setup either. This entire narrative gets crazier and surprisingly more polished as it progresses to more ambitious heights. I kept on waiting for the point in which the narrative slows and the quality drops, but that moment never came. It just keeps getting bigger and better en route to the climax, which is remarkably epic. It’s not just the scale, insanity and ridiculousness of the story that is brilliant – it’s the themes and meaning behind the film that really shines. There’s actually a few very effective emotional throughlines that enhance the impact of the finale and add a few more layers to the film and its lead characters. To my surprise, it ends up being much more of a deep narrative than I had anticipated going into it. The fact that I had no idea what to expect at any point made the entire journey 10x more thrilling. Every narrative beat was a complete surprise – by far one of the most unique movies I’ve ever seen.
The film is led by a phenomenal performance from Michelle Yeoh. Comedic, emotional, serious – you name it, she perfects it. Through all of the chaos going on, she is absolutely phenomenal – committed to every scene and nailing the rapid-fire dialogue that encompasses much of the film. She brilliantly conveys the sheer insanity of what her character is going through, and also really effectively adjusts her performance as the character becomes more accustomed to her surroundings. I’d go so far as to say she has put in a guaranteed award-worthy performance. Whether it gets noticed is another thing. She doesn’t do it alone though – Ke Huy Quan delivers a gripping performance in which he brilliantly executes every comedic beat, while hitting some key heartwarming scenes with a touch of class. For someone who did next-to-no acting for over 30 years, he’s still got the craft on lock. Then you have the likes of Stephanie Hsu, film legend James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis who all enhance the story in their own way.
One thing to note before embarking on this rollercoaster is that it’s a truly visceral experience. The mind-bending cinematography is beyond stunning. The fight choreography is chaotic and exciting in every instance. The score and use of sound across the entire film sucks you in to every moment. Not only is the narrative thoroughly entertaining, this whole movie is a technical marvel. I have to give major props to writers/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert who clearly went into this with an insanely ambitious vision and nailed it. On top of that, they also weave in a tonne of satirical humour – something that made a lot more sense when I learnt after-the-fact that they made Swiss Army Man – a film I absolutely loved. This satirical touch is weaved in incredibly well, with so many ridiculous moments that are just memorable.
In the end, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a sight to behold. I mean, there’s no use trying to describe what it’s about since it really needs to be seen to be believed. It’s common knowledge now that if you see A24’s logo at the front of a film, you know you’re probably in for something special. Crazy, chaotic, mental and mesmerising, this is an ambitious project that delivered in every way. The story is surprisingly easy to consume and endlessly gripping, the action is fun and fast-paced, and each of the lead performances are memorable in their own rights. All in all, this is one of the must-watch films of the year… especially if you’re after an absurd blend of sci-fi, action, drama and satire.