Syfy is mostly known for their very own made-for-TV movies, which are usually Oscar-contending classics like Sharknado or even Dinocroc Vs Supergator. Now, however, Syfy is making a leap to the big screen with their new Syfy Films banner, and who would have guessed that their first feature film would be a brainy thriller that has more in common with Duncan Jones’ Moon than Roger Corman’s Carnosaur? The movie, of course, is Matt Osterman’s 400 Days, which aims to provide us with a poignant look inside the human psyche when there’s nowhere left to run.
The film follows a group of training astronauts during a 400-day simulation designed to test the limits of human isolation in a controlled environment. The crew gets off to a good start, but things turn sour when some of them bring their own personal problems onboard as well. As time goes on, however, they begin to suspect that there is something wrong with this simulation, and the line between fact and fiction begins to blur.
The premise is interesting enough, with a lot of potential for character-driven story elements in such a claustrophobic environment. An uninspired cast and underdeveloped script, however, make this next to impossible. Even with a decent ensemble like this one, featuring an underappreciated Brandon Routh, Dane Cook, Caity Lots and others, the film still struggles to find its feet in a mess of melodramatic elements and easily avoidable mistakes made by characters that are supposed to be highly intelligent.
Production-wise this looks nothing like Syfy’s cheap, ‘made for TV’ efforts. You feel that 400 Days is meant to be admired, at least visually, on a large, high-resolution screen in order to catch all the minute details. Even so, the half-baked story and stupid characters bring the whole experience down a notch. The film’s final twist is sure to be the most divisive moment here, but I was caught off guard and found it to be quite creative, though the entire final third of the film does seem to come out of nowhere.
400 Days is certainly a lot better than Syfy’s earlier work, but it never quite reaches the heights that it promises. The visuals were decent enough, but we have seen too many science fiction movies to feel impressed with this kind of technology anymore. Fortunately, the story did go in new and unexpected directions, yet the problem here lies in the bland characters that took us there. Ultimately, there is enough here to justify a quick viewing by sci-fi aficionados, but it won’t be blowing anyone’s mind anytime soon. In any case, I still prefer this to Arachnoquake.