Director – Matt Osterman
Writer – Matt Osterman
Starring – Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Dane Cook
Throughout my life as a cinephile, two genres have always resonated with me more than any other. Those being Sci-Fi and the Psychological thriller. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found a recent release marketed as both. Could this be this generations Event Horizon? (Which is a much better film that it’s given credit for.). Unfortunately, the answer is no, as the second directorial attempt of relative unknown Matt Osterman is a jumbled mess of a film.
Four astronauts in training are locked into a bunker for 400 days as part of a simulation experiment to see how they cope in isolation. We find out that, just before the mission began, Theo (Brandan Routh), and Emily (Lotz) were engaged to be married, but she broke it off just before the mission. As the days began to pass tension rises between the various members of the mission, as the claustrophobia and over-exposure to one another begins to take its effect. After several members begin to suffer hallucinations, a mysterious figure finds its way into the ship, and then a surreal nightmare unfolds as the lines between simulation and reality are blurred
The premise is actually pretty great, and the screenplay begins very well. The relationship dynamic is told to us in a clever manner, the dialogue never feeling particularly clunky. The problem is, as with most of the subplots within this film, that the relationship is seemingly then ignored for the duration of the run time before being revisited towards the end. This mean there is no real chemistry build between Emily and Theo , or any issues resulting from this particularly fascinating story thread. Instead, it’s largely forgotten until the end, when the screen writer seemingly goes ‘Oh yeah, they were in a relationship, should probably do something with that.’ It all falls very flat and hollow, and, possibly, never even needed to be there in the first place.
This film is also ridiculously unsure as to what it is trying to be; beginning as a potential claustrophobic relationship drama, before descending into a claustrophobia thriller, then becoming a conspiracy story, before seemingly morphing into Silent Hill, before ending in slasher film territory. This feels less like a clever bending of genres and more like a film or writer who begins a lot of various ideas but never quite sees them through, before rapidly moving onto the next plot point. The one hook that keeps you watching is the potential mystery of the ending, and ambiguity of plot. I won’t spoil it for you, but I can tell you this; the film ends in the lamest way possible. It has a very ‘is that it? seriously?’ feel to it and confuses you in all the wrong ways. It’s predictable, but, in light of the third act of the film, absolutely stupid.
The characters are all boring caricatures; Theo the broken-hearted brooder, Cole (Cook) the cynical and aggressive asshole, Emily the sensitive female voice of reason, and Bug (Feldman) is so bland he may as well be a cardboard cut-out spouting randomly generated phrases out of a P.C. Also, when did this idea that all Sci-Fi psychologists are female come from? It seems to have become a trend recently. I think there could be an article in there somewhere.
No member of the cast ever inspires or particularly impresses, whilst never being particularly poor either. Routh’s post-Superman career continues to be stagnant and uninspiring. Lotz is a decent actress who did little to wow me. Cook is laughably over the top as the stock asshole character, and a cardboard cut-out of Feldman probably could have matched his performance as Bugg, because as previously stated, Bugg is really, really boring.
Even the cinematography and directing is uninspiring, as nothing is ever stand out, innovative or interesting. It isn’t bad, by any stretch, but plays it safe and goes by the numbers. The result is decent, but uninspiring.
Unfortunately, this is a case where a film had a marvelous premise with infinite potential, but absolutely fails to decide on a certain direction, tries to do way too much, and in the end fails spectacularly at everything. Not a train wreck, and possibly worth a watch at least once, but the next time you criticise Interstellar watch this instead. Believe me, you’ll quickly change your tune.