(director/writer: Neil Burger; cinematographer: Enrique Chediak; editor: Naomi Geraghty; music: Trevor Gureckis; cast: Lily-Rose Depp (Sela), Tye Sheridan (Christopher), Fionn Whitehead (Zac), Colin Farrell (Richard), Lou Llobell (Zandie), Viveik Kalra (Peter), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Edward), Archie Madekwe (Kai), Chanté Adams (Phoebe), Quintessa Swindell (Julie), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Edward), Madison Hu (Anda), Archie Renaux (Alex), Wern Lee (Tayo), Veronica Falcón (Marianne Sancar), Laura Dreyfuss (IVF Technician), April Grace (Mission Director); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Basil Iwanyk, Brendon Boyea, Neil Burger; Lionsgate; 2021)
“A visually pleasing derivative sci-fi thriller about young space voyagers on a critical mission to colonize a distant planet, that’s otherwise an underwhelming film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A visually pleasing derivative sci-fi thriller about young space voyagers on a critical mission to colonize a distant planet, that’s otherwise an underwhelming film. It’s safely written and directed by Neil Burger (“Limitless”/”Divergent”) as it finely relays tension, unrest and claustrophobia in its too familiar save the world narrative. Its Lord Of The Flies setup makes things predictable, as it compares children stuck alone in a remote desert to young adults stuck in a spacecraft with alienation problems as they try to get things together.
The film takes place in 2063, about 50 years into the future. A spaceship guided by mission commander/scientist Richard (Colin Farrell), the surrogate father, who has on board a mixed group of about 24 genetically engineered children who have been specially bred in a lab for intelligence and obedience to go on this 86-year journey to a distant planet that their grandchildren will colonize. The reason for the mission is to preserve, if necessary, the fragile human race teetering on destruction on a planet that has become uninhabitable.
But the smooth flight plan goes awry after Richard is sidelined over an incident aboard the spacecraft and the compliant passengers start acting out when they discover ugly secrets about the mission that were kept from them–like being drugged to keep them docile by the blue liquid they are forced to take every day.
The young travellers, led by the smart Christopher (Tye Sheridan), the resourceful Sela (Lily-Rose Depp) and the ambitious soon to be villain, the scheming Zac (Fionn Whitehead), meet to fend for themselves and choose a new leader as they decide whether or not to continue with the mission. Meanwhile the situation for the twenty-somethings aboard the spacecraft turns from passivity to orgies and anarchy, and concerns about an alien presence.
Filled with mysteries and robotic characters and a cold blue light that shines eerily on them, the scene in space voices the same conflict as those on Earth– civilization vs. anarchy. After picking sides the crew battles each other, showing how much they differ. The unpleasant flight will bring us to a sentimental conclusion after taking us on its many subplots, as it proclaims in the end how we must come united together as a community to survive (which is hardly a bold message and one we have heard many times before on Earth).
Cinematographer Enrique Chediak keeps it from being a completely dull experience by his choice visual motifs, but the actors can’t do much with the uninspiring script.
REVIEWED ON 5/14/2021 GRADE: C+