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Sphere

Year: 1997
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Barry Levinson
Producer: Michael Crichton
Writer: Michael Crichton
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber
Most critics wrote this film off as garbage, and while it's no Alien or any of the other groundbreaking sci-fi horror films, it's not nearly as cheap as The Puppet Masters or as much a copy as Leviathan or Deep Star Six.

However, in the hands of a very capable director (Levinson) and one of the best intelligent sci-fi writers of today (Crichton), it could have been a lot better.

The US Navy has discovered what appears to be a giant spacecraft that crashed into the Pacific 300 years ago. They've assembled a team of scientists, a psychologist (Hoffman), astro-physicist (Schreiber), biochemist (Stone) and mathematician (Jackson) to base themselves in the ocean floor habitat nearby to investigate.

Finding a giant floating spherical object inside, each member of the team is drawn to its mystery while things around them get stranger - not least because they discover the spacecraft is an American ship from their future that has apparently been sent into the past by a black hole.

The mystery and suspense are well sustained by an apparently alien presence and the manifestation of assorted creepy crawlies, but things then take a slightly ridiculous and sentimental turn when you discover that the sphere has given them each the power to make their dreams (or fears) real, hence sea snakes, giant squids and general carnage.

Well directed and performed by some very good character actors (even though some of their strange behaviour is never accounted for), the explanation for various mysteries do satisfy and the loose ends that pepper the plot are tied up even if the climax and conclusion are somewhat of a letdown. To its credit though, at least it didn't turn out to be another Alien clone.

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