Director: William Eubank
Writer: William Eubank
Cast: Gunner Wright

I had this film on my list for ages not knowing it was from William Eubank, the same guy behind the criminally underappreciated little sci-fi thriller Underwater from years later.

Somewhere in the ensuing decade Eubank found his storytelling groove, because while this sets up a mystery effectively and the imagery is at-times gorgeous, it's far more interested in enshrouding the whole thing in even more mystery as it unfolds. I also didn't realise while watching this film (or writing the review) Eubank also went on to make The Signal, which wasn't any more narratively satisfying as his later effort.

Gunner Wright is Captain Lee Miller, the sole astronaut aboard the ISS who's going about his days as he always has – conducting maintenance and experiments, exercising on the treadmill and reporting back to comms operators at bases in Cambridge and Houston.

Over the course of a couple of days he starts having trouble raising anyone back home, receiving a weird interference signal that drowns everything out across his comms, then one day contact ceases altogether.

Weeks – maybe months – later, he'll get one more recording from someone on the ground cryptically alluding to everything back on Earth having gone bad, leaving Miller to wonder if a global war, climate catastrophe or zombie apocalypse has befallen the planet below him.

But that's only the beginning. Giving us no idea how much time has passed except for later scenes when he has a scraggly beard, Miller seems to slowly go mad from the isolation and worry.

Now's the time to tell you about the seemingly unrelated framing story that actually kicks the film off before we even meet Miller. It's the hard-focus and lyrical story of an American Civil War battle that has almost no chance of success and plays out in glorious, crystal-clear slo-mo of men running towards the enemy brandishing 19th century weapons and with clods of dirt and fire from explosions filling the air around them.

Just prior to that attack, a lone soldier is dispatched to investigate an object that's been spotted in a nearby valley. What's that got to do with the ISS, Miller and the rest of the story? While slowly losing his grip and trying to keep the ship in one piece, Miller comes across the leather bound journal the soldier kept on his search for the mysterious object... yes, in orbit, and a century later.

The biggest letdown of the film is that – along with many other mysteries – it never really makes clear exactly how such a thing ended up somewhere it had no business being. The script (also by Eubank) liberally ladles in other questions and mysteries as the film progresses, and it doesn't really deign to answer any of them.

As time goes on, Miller becomes obsessed with motifs and icons from the diary and his own unhinged mind, tattooing scenes from the war on his skin as well as drawing them all over the walls of the ship until it's obvious he's completely cracked.

Anything I knew about what was really going on I had to read in the plot description on the film's Wikipedia page later – it all ends up with some futuristic artefact that contacts Miller which may or may not be man made, a reference to Miller himself in a book he finds and an ornate hotel room that seems a pretty overt nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but what does it all add up to?

It's beautifully designed and shot, but if you're the kind of moviegoer who's frustrated by a story that raises so many ambiguities and doesn't settle them, it will leave you unsatisfied despite any appreciate you have for the technical crafts.

© 2011-2024 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au