Director: Christian Alvart
Distributor: Overture Films
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Antje Traue
Excellence: 4 star (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: Another pleasant surprise dug up from the depths of box-office failures; a sci-fi horror film featuring two amnesiac astronauts aboard a colony ship where things have gone horribly wrong enroute, and must find a way to survive amidst a dangerous infestation
This month's review is another "diamond in the rough", so to speak -- a film that "tanked" horribly at the box office, grossing only $10 million after a $33 million budget, and panned by the critics (Rotten Tomatoes gives it a meager 27%). Yet despite this I thought it rather well-done and certainly enjoyable. It is a European film, and perhaps that accounts for it's lack of popularity given the slower pace and subtlety not common to American "blockbusters". The I.M.D.B. synopsis is as follows:
Two astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. It's pitch black, they are disoriented, and the only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the ship. They can't remember anything: Who are they? What is their mission? With Lt. Payton staying behind to guide him via radio transmitter, Cpl. Bower ventures deep into the ship and begins to uncover a terrifying reality. Slowly the spacecraft's shocking, deadly secrets are revealed...and the astronauts find their own survival is more important than they could ever have imagined.The film had a certain mythological feel to it, since the ship is treated as its own world and given the presence of a god/devil-like figure responsible for the "evils" in that world and the degradation of the humans of the colony ship, somewhat reminiscent of Milton's Paradise Lost. There is perhaps also a parallel to Dante's Divine Comedy in the path that the main characters must travel to defeat the evil in the film.
I found the film suspenseful throughout, and with a great sense of mystery as the viewer tries to figure out what's happened aboard the Elysium along with the two crew members. The acting was perhaps not Oscar-worthy but more than adequate for the type of film, and the special effects satisfying. The plot was surprisingly complex and well-thought out making for a viewing experience that was overall very good. Certainly worth checking-out for any science fiction fans.
Finally, it has one of the greatest quotes I've seen in a film in a good long while. When the main protagonist confronts the "god/devil-like figure", the latter tempts him by offering him a share in his power saying that all that holds him back is his own fear. Our hero responds: "There will always be law...and you will pay for what you've done."