Live for Films

I've moved to www.liveforfilms.com

Pandorum, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on September 27, 2009

pandorum_2Director: Christian Alvart
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Cung Le
Running Time: 108 minutes

Score: 7 / 10

This review by Dan Franzen.

Echoing such luminous sci-fi classics as 2001 and Alien, Pandorum is a terrific psychological thriller, although it does struggle at times to be coherent and original. But it’s a true mindbender, and it’s packed with action that moves so quickly neither the actors nor the audience can really catch a breath, which is a good move if your plot is shaky to begin with.

As with the best deep-space movies, the context is mental illness, what the Professor on Gilligan’s Island called, oddly enough, “island madness.” Only in space. In the distant, distant future, a ship has been sent from the Earth carrying a lot of people, headed to the only Earth-like planet ever found. Sometime during the journey, things go awry. We pick up the story as an astronaut named Bower (Ben Foster) awakens from hypersleep, abruptly; he’s soon followed by his commanding officer, Payton (Dennis Quaid). The rest of the crew is gone, and the only door is locked from the outside. What’s happened here? Making matters more difficult is the amnesia that each man suffers from, owing to their having been in hypersleep way longer than intended. Somehow, they must piece together what has happened and find out what lies behind that door – and throughout the rest of the gigantic ship.

Not only does the movie recall Aliens and 2001, you can also see similarities to The Descent and The Abyss; really, any movie in which people are trapped in claustrophobic environs. And although the pacing is frenetic at times, the movie is really chillingly shot (by Wedigo von Schultzendorff). On the one hand, the plot flows linearly – Bower needs to get to the ship’s reactor so he can reboot it and save everyone – meaning that the actors race from scene to scene, running out of time. On the other hand, they don’t piece together what’s happened as quickly as they might in other, lesser films; they seem to figure things out gradually, as if assembling a puzzle in their heads. Bowers and others – and there are others – discover right away, though, that they’re not really alone on the ship and that their enemies are extremely strong and fast and vicious.

Injected into this oh-my-goodness-what’s-out-there madness is, well, madness. The movie’s title is explained as being a sort of mental illness that affects astronauts from time to time, when they just plain go bonkers for seemingly no reason and kill everyone on board. Is that’s what’s happening here? Is Bower the crazy one? Or is it Payton? Are they, in fact, alone on the ship? Foster is excellent as the hero who remembers a little bit more of their mission as time elapses; Quaid, in turn, shows a few more layers than we’re accustomed to seeing from him (he’s usually more of a poor man’s Harrison Ford). Both actors turn in convincing, full-throated performances that complement, rather than succumb to, the special effects and cinematic wizardry. Often, the effects are the entire show. Now, it’s true that you won’t see a lot of character development here, as you might in the most cerebral of sci-fi, but what works best here is the paucity of knowledge about the situation and the characters. By spinning the tale gradually, feeding the audience only a snippet at a time, director Christian Alvart dangles the mystery in front of his viewers without allowing them to settle back and solve the mystery on their own. When you’re constantly kept on your toes with sudden lurches of unseen shapes and reverberating noises, you – like the befuddled characters – are concurrently kept off balance. The result is an unsettling, entertaining delight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: