Monday 15 April 2019

Prospect (Canada/USA 2018: Dir Christopher Caldwell, Zeek Earl)

Sci fi and western movies have sufficient thematic synergy to have inspired a number of crossover flicks that borrow elements from both genres; examples include Hammer's Moon Zero Two (1968), Outland (1981) and Serenity (2005). You can probably think of loads more.

Prospect, if you'll pardon the pun, mines a little of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and True Grit (take your pick - 1970 or 2010) for its western-on-another-planet story of a father, Damon (Jay Duplass), and daughter Cee (Sophie Thatcher), foragers in space, who land on a distant moon that promises rich pickings in the form of organic gems called 'aurelac.' But once there, the pair find that they are not alone - the planet's difficult to access riches have attracted the interest of other adventurers, and before we know it Cee is orphaned at the hand of profiteer Ezra (Pedro Pascal), who they encounter while navigating the dense forest covering the surface of the alien world. Cee and Ezra, wary of each other (but literally connected as Cee must share her air filter with Ezra, his having failed), form an uneasy alliance to find their way off the planet and back to the safety of an orbiting space platform.

It's true that the science fiction elements of Caldwell and Earl's debut feature operate in a MacGuffin like way - the story could have been told in any one of a number of environments, not just on different worlds - but having settled on the 'pirates in space' setting, the pair create a truly immersive environment on what could not have been a large budget.

The craft which gets Damon and Cee to the moon's surface is authentically scuffed (the legacy of Alien and Dark Star before it again) and a lot of the enjoyment of this part of the film is seeing them go about their spacecraft business, twiddling bits of kit, plugging things into other things, with Cee listening to authentically futuristic pop music on her headphones (the movie is set at an unspecific time in the future).

Once Cee and Damon, and then Cee and Ezra, find themselves trapped on terra firma, despite the lush photography and equally resplendent soundtrack, the film slows considerably, relying on the old B movie standby of people walking around a lot. There's little threat on display for our stranded cast - a subplot involving a family living in the forest who want to trade gems for Cee seems a little extraneous - so the tension as such is created via the antipathy between Cee and her father's killer, a loquacious soul whose relentless apohorisms seem to have stepped straight out of a Coen brothers script.

Prospect is best enjoyed for the details rather than the slight story. The forest location (filmed in the Snoqualmie park area of Seattle) looks lush but perhaps rather too Earth-like, but it's still a stunning looking film, with some very subtle and evocative CGI to enhance the look of the thing. As Cee  Thatcher is quietly determined, but somehow never quite convinces; the drama of Cee's central dilemma is diluted because of her ambivalent attitude to her father's killer and she's bashful where she should be feisty (perhaps I'm thinking of Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn from True Grit again). But see it for the mis-en-scene, because that's first rate.

Prospect is out on Blu ray, DVD and Digital on 22 April 2019.

No comments:

Post a Comment