TL;DR – A sci-fi film that excels in creating atmosphere in both world building but also in creating a suffocating feel.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
I don’t think it is any great surprise that I am a fan of science fiction, I’ll take it any way I can get it. However, it is a rare film that captures my attention for doing things a little different and Prospect is such a film. Instead of big battle scenes and space opera set pieces, it focuses on building atmosphere and exploring the lives of its characters.
So to set the scene, we open in space convey ship as Cee (Sophie Thatcher) is listening in to some music only to forget to be back in their pod in time. She lives on the edges of society with her father Damon (Jay Duplass) trying to scavenge whatever they can to stay afloat. They are over a moon that is covered in a forest (the green) that produces toxic spores that make it impossible to breathe for more than a few seconds. However, it is home to some biological gems that are quite profitable if you can find a site that was not picked clean during the rush. Landing off course, they have to go overland to their job site when they run into Ezra (Pedro Pascal) and his crew. Setting off a tense scene because the Convoy ship is leaving in three cycles and it is not coming back which is just the moment everything falls apart.
first thing you see with Prospect is
just how tactile it all is, with a design and implementation of a film from the
1980s but updated to today. The film is set on the fringes of society, so while
we are looking at ships that can make it in and out of atmosphere they are
clearly the bargain model when they were bought 50 odd years ago. There are
buttons you flick, guns need to be charged manual, and suits have to be worn at
all times. Now part of this is likely due to the low budget the film was
working with, but it is also a clever design that told a story through visuals
rather through exposition. There are of course hints as to the wider world this
story exists in, but this is only there to give you a framework for the world.
This is a very intimate film in part because there are very few characters and most of them are hidden behind suits, forcing your focus. Our main protagonist is Cee who while young has clearly lived a very tough life when we see just how few things phase her. This is Sophie Thatcher’s first major role, and I would not have expected that until I had looked to see what else she had done. That is because she really captures what it would be like in the moment, and because so much of the story has to be moved by her and her actions, it is important that everything works, and it does. Jay Duplass is great as the dad that you can feel is trying to do what he can for his daughter and giving her a better life, but it has been hard, too hard, and it has taken its toll. Finally, of course Pedro Pascal is fantastic, but when you hear Pedro has been cast in something you just go ‘that’s good casting’ and it was.
the tactile nature, the story, and the cast were all great, there was one thing
that elevated it for me and that was the claustrophobic nature that they were
able to get. Through careful cinematography and fantastic location work, you
get a situation where that forest feels at once both familiar and also unworldly.
This creates a purposeful uncanny valley effect where you feel something is off
even though that is just a tree. This is important because the show didn’t have
the budget of say Annihilation
another fantastic sci-fi film that created a similar feeling using creative set
dressing but it worked just as well and much better than say Avatar that had a similar issue with its
setting. This also means that the film is also constantly immersed in the
casual nature of death because once you can’t breathe it is over and you see
that reinforced throughout the film. Something that is also reinforced by sound
mixing that makes the most of some off-putting scenes without showing anything.
In the end, do we recommend Prospect? Absolutely. It is not your action orientated sci-fi film, though there is action. This is a film about shifting alliances, surviving on the edge, and creating an atmosphere that is almost oppressive in its nature and it is fantastic at that. It is the sort of film I have not seen in a long time and I wish we got more of them.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Prospect
Directed by – Zeek Earl & Chris Caldwell
Written by – Zeek Earl & Chris Caldwell
Music by – Daniel L.K. Caldwell
Cinematography by – Zeek Earl
Edited by – Paul Frank
Production/Distribution Companies – Depth of Field, Ground Control, BRON Studios, Shep Films & Gunpowder & Sky
Starring – Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass, Pedro Pascal, Sheila Vand, Andre Royo & Anwan Glover
Rating – Australia: MA15+; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R