"400 Days" is a low-budget SF that uses a not so bad idea as a theme on the one hand. But on the other hand it disappoints when it comes to the implementation of it. A space center, with Theo (Brandon Routh), Dvorak (Dane Cook), Bug (Ben Feldman) and Emily (Caity "The Machine" Lotz) as future astronauts, wants to examine the psychological impact of a prolonged space travel. Astronauts are already subject to physical testing (as can be seen in the snapshots at the beginning of the film). But what about their mental state? Can they cope with such a long term isolation? That's why the four are locked up in an underground bunker. And (yes, you couldn't have guessed it) they are part of a simulation that'll take 400 days. And in advance they are being informed by the CEO of the research center that whoever leaves the simulation before the period of 400 days, can say goodbye to a career as astronaut. The only remaining position this person will get, is as gardener at the space center.
From the outset it's clear the budget was limited. The clinical white, high-tech cockpit doesn't look very professional. It looks more like a plastic toy I would give my children for Christmas. A bit kitschy even. The four sitting alongside one another in their space suit, swiping large touch screens and undergoing the not so exciting launch. They've been told their could unexpected incidents (just to make it more realistic). It's no surprise there's already a problem during the launch itself. Unfortunately this is also the only problem they'll encounter, besides the ensuing serious incident. It seems like something catastrophic happened at the surface and there's no communication anymore with the control center. The question is of course whether this is part of the overall simulation or not.
As said before, the beginning of the film looks fairly amateurish and cheap. The plastic decor, the unknown actors (besides Caity Lotz) and the bland and ridiculous beginning. I thought it was quite suspicious that a person with a huge hangover after spending days in bars (because his fiancée ruined the wedding plans), still can participate in an (in my opinion expensive) experiment. If this was NASA, I'm sure that you won't even get the chance to get drunk anyway. And when you succeed in getting drunk, you can be sure that you can pack your bags. After the startup of the simulation and the meaningless launch is over, it's as if the participants have little to do. It looked like an episode of the reality show "Big Brother".
But ultimately this would-be SF full of claustrophobic and psychological situations gradually evolves into a pretty exciting story, in which one begins to ask questions of what's actually going on. And before you know it, the film shifts into a post-apocalyptic modus. As days go by, the mental state of mind of the four participants deteriorates. Especially after losing all communication, doubts rise. Is this all part of the simulation or is there actually something seriously wrong? Despite this movie transcends the level of the film "Sharknado" (another Syfy product) and the acting isn't so terribly bad (especially Tom Cavanagh as the weirdo Zell was brilliant), the whole was messed up again by a senseless ending. Most questions you asked yourself during the film, aren't explained at all. Let alone the end would provide clarification. It was the cover that caught my attention, because it pretty much resembles that of "The Signal". Only the content was not as intriguing as that of the latter. And the illogical, absurd open end ruined the well-meant, slightly mysterious middle of this movie. What a shame.
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