|British Film Institute|
Runtime: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Rated: R (for brief strong language)
Director: Ruairi Robinson
Writers: Sydney J. Bounds, Clive Dawson
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Elias Koteas
Horror | Sci-fi | Thriller
Released late September in the UK, the film follows a team of eight explorers as they encounter tragedy while collecting specimens on the red planet. “Captain Brunel” (Elias “Shutter Island” Koteas) and team are finishing up this last Mars expedition. Crewmen “Vincent Campbell” (Liev Schreiber) and “Rebecca Lane” (Romola “Amazing Grace” Garai) are discussing what has been accomplished. Up to this point, any findings have been routine with a side helping of common equipment issues that keep needing to be addressed.
Regardless of the desire to see a blue sky again, no one is looking forward to the long trip home in hibernation. Tempers have been flaring over the minutia of living together in a base-camp on the dusty, barren world. Their goal is now to finish up the last 19 hours of the mission and return to their ship where they will begin the trip back to Earth. But none of them have a clue that once “Science Officer Marko Petrovic” (Goran Kostic) develops a ruse to buy more time to investigate what he suspects are samples of life in rocks, their trip home is going to be put on hold...possibly forever.
Fans of Schreiber should agree that the actor gives one of the better performances of his career as an astronaut who suffers from anxiety disorder because of a space accident on a previous mission that nearly cost him his life. Schreiber’s flowing chemistry with Garai is an example of truly good chemistry manifesting naturally—something that even veteran actor duos can’t always nail down. Perhaps most impressive is the way the film incorporates human flaws and layers them into advancements of the plot. It would be hard to pick a better cast, one that makes its audience feel like its characters are composed of real-life experts picked from around the world to do their jobs.
Being very reminiscent of Alien in its use of lighting, everything we would want in a movie that aims to take top-notch sci-fi honors is here. The interpersonal dramas and tensions and a finely selected cast of largely unfamiliar faces – as well as a most impressive set, props, and filming location (Jordan) – graft us in and keep us there. The only thing they got wrong that jumped out at me was the fact that astronauts are known for having much better senses of humor than most of us.
Packed with suspense and riveting tension, there is no solid way of predicting where the story is heading, thanks to some excellent writing by director Ruairi Robinson with material from Sydney J. Bounds, author of the short story on which the movie is based. Not to be forgotten is screenplay writer Clive Dawson known for his work behind the English TV series London’s Burning. Robinson, known only for some obscure short films, steps up to the plate with his first full-length feature and does a damn fine job. Not many directors could have done as well in making such an evenly paced beauty out of a perceivably ugly storyline that bathes in zombie apocalypse bathwater.
As far as Martian epidemic flicks go, this one may well set the standard for all to follow. There really isn’t much that could have been improved upon with the exception of some dialog segments and prolonged drama thrown in at intervals where more cautious editing was called for. It may clock in as a conventionally low-budget picture, but it packs a mighty big punch as far as Mars movies take us. It may even be one of the best Earth has to offer.