First off, this is not ‘Event Horizon’ or ‘2001’ and it doesn’t strive to be. Which is a good thing in many ways. Here the focus isn’t so much the computer effects or the aesthetics of the ships but the intense pressure this crew must shoulder. They are all imperfect in ways but carry the fate of billions on their conscience. I’m glad that unlike the dragged out ‘Mission to Mars’ this film doesn’t try to emulate the scope of Kubrick. Instead the space and ships that inhabit it are both foreboding and alive with their machinery. The sets are of things you have seen before in various creations but what stands out here are the emotions and the quality of the actors in this film. Let’s just say there is no Affleck’s professing their love to Bruce Willis here. The film itself starts immediately into the mission of the Icarus II as it nears our dying Sun. The Captain played by Hiroyuki Sanada is hesitant and cautious due to the fact that the previous mission ended in failure with no answers to their fates. Icarus II’s crew comes from a frozen and dying earth. Any and all chances to show that they are relishing their closeness to our dying sun are shown. In particular there is a glass viewing room, which they can access to view and feels its warmth. Cillian Murphy plays Robert Kappa; one of the creators of the payload onboard that he hopes will create a new sun out of the dying one. The specifics of this device are never fully explained but it is not the main focus. All hopes and resources are in this second attempt because Kappa states that the entire world has been mined to create the raw materials to make the device. There is nothing left and no other chance. The actual living quarters of the ship are realistic in the aspects of artificial environment and food. However the payload itself is what stands out. Covered by what seems like miles of gold or copper heat resistant shielding it is a sight to behold.
Everything seems to be running smoothly. Aside from flaring tensions and work related stress from such a long voyage the crew has optimism. The film then takes a wide turn when they discover the drifting ship from the previous mission. From this point on the mission turns from one of hope to complete and utter despair. Events are set in motion that jeopardizes all of their lives. We watch as all the crewmembers begin to approach their newfound mortality in new and unique ways. It should be said that not one of them wavers from the mission. Ultimately they all understand that they are but specks in the grand scheme of things. Their nobility towards death may depress or invigorate you. Here is where the team of Boyle, Macdonald, and Garland separate themselves from the pack. The entire film is about sacrifice. Even when some of the crewmembers realize that in order to achieve their mission that some must be killed to preserve oxygen they do not waver. The film at this point is full of decisions like these.
The cast is a mix of ethnicities. Michelle Yeoh is actually in a movie where she shows genuine emotion and does not just kick things. But her role is minor. Rose Byrne of the soon to be out ‘28 Weeks Later’ comes across as burned out emotionally and physically. Hiroyuki Sanada makes his English language debut as the ships Captain and plays it with a reserved intensity. Honestly whenever I see Cillian Murphy I expect him to go kind of crazy but he doesn’t here.
This is by no means a summer blockbuster and it doesn’t try to be. I’m curious as to how they will further promote it as it approaches its U.S. release date. There is one major issue with it in the last quarter of the film. Here it turns into a slasher and will probably lose some of its audience when that happens. I just hope that they don’t make it the focus of future trailers and present it as if it is strictly a horror film, because it is not. Overall the film is strong and worthy of a viewing but it may be too much for U.S. audiences. The only thing I can see hurting it at the box office is that many will look at it and assume it’s just like all the other films like it. The film is unique and deserves a chance to be seen. I just hope that audiences are ready for it.