A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote moon on the hunt for elusive riches. But there are others roving the moon's toxic forest and the job quickly devolves into a desperate fight to escape.
Father and daughter prospecting team, Damon and Cee (Transparent‘s Jay Duplass and Sophie Thatcher; respectively) land on a remote planet. But a ship malfunction causes their ship to land off-course, and they must cross this alien terrain to reach their intended pick-up location. Along the way, they come across some potential riches hidden in the soil, as well as a dangerous and violent prospector named Ezra (Game of Thrones‘ Pedro Pascal). Following a series of unfortunate events, Ezra and Cee must work together to get where they need to go. And in the course of this journey, a tepid bond is created.
Technically, the film is flawless. The cinematography is inspired, the locations wonderfully picturesque. Based on the visual effects, enhancing this planet and its views of the starry, planet-filled sky – you’ll never doubt that you’re in an alien world.
I appreciated the less glitzy sci-fi look of the film and this world’s technology. It was a call-out to the grittier, dirtier and less “hi-tech” feeling of Ridley Scott’s Alien. I believe taking an audience into a futuristic world – perhaps closer to our time in look – offers up a little more accessibility. Despite the advances of space travel into the outer reaches of the galaxy, the absence of high-tech gadgetry and language allowed for more of an audience “in”.
Where the film falls short for me, however, is in the all-important categories of pacing and story. I hate to say it, but I found the film repetitive and at times, boring. While the locations are gorgeous, there’s only so much an audience can take of characters trudging through the forest on their way to their destination.
On that note, I never quite got on board with any of the characters and that long road to escape, despite the solid performances from the entire cast. It’s a wonderful set-up which brings Ezra and Cee together (in what is arguably the film’s most intense and best sequence), but their journey never got me excited. And if a film is lacking in character sympathies, then it’s an uphill battle to keep me engaged.
I will say this about the film. As it is a “road-trip” movie (one of my favorite sub-genres), it had all of the trappings for such a piece (off-the-wall characters we meet only once, strange locations we see only once, many obstacles along the way), but there never felt to be a true driving force behind the proceedings. There was no urgency, and that is the film’s major drawback. “Meandering” is the name of the game here.
Sophie Thatcher won the Best Lead Actress award for FilmQuest. And while it’s a good performance from this young actress, I would have given it to another one of the contenders. Her best moments come as she has to face Ezra directly, following a tragedy. Cee’s strong-willed, surprisingly resilient and ultimately, kind of a badass.
Pascal won Best Lead Actor at FilmQuest – and this selection I can get behind. Seeing Ezra’s priorities shift as the film goes on – while never quite knowing where he’s coming from – is a delight to behold. As Cee eventually moves to trust him, so does the audience. You’ll become comfortable seeing Cee in his care. And much of that credit goes to Pascal. While he clearly begins to care about Cee’s well-being, the character never loses his cavalier attitude. And his few moments of letting his guard down (a medical treatment in a small tent is a good example), show off the depth of Pascal’s substantial acting skills.
Another big issue is the sound mix. The majority of the film finds the characters under the glass of their helmet visors (the planet doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere) – and for a large portion of the film, I found it terribly difficult to follow what was going on. I simply couldn’t understand what they were saying. A fellow audience member mentioned that perhaps the sound was potentially messed up because of the venue’s sound system. But I politely had to disagree. Whenever the characters were in an enclosed and breathable area and out of their protective helmets talking, I had absolutely no problem understanding the conversations. Thus, I have to err on the side of a technical problem within the film, not without.
Something which sort of had me torn… this is an alien planet. And other than a shot of some sort of dragonfly creature, there was really no sign of life. I’m not saying I needed some action-packed escape/chase from some giant monster whilst on the planet’s surface (as in so many other films with this kind of setting), but to complete the illusion – it felt odd not to have even a few additional background critters. And while I like the fact that the story didn’t rely on the usual sci-fi tactics – something was missing.
And I do want to call out the awesomeness of the practical effects team. When Cee and Damon go through the painstaking process of going for the riches in the soil, it’s fascinating and completely convincing, effects-wise.
With good performances, stunning visuals, but a terribly directionless and slow-moving story, as well as a marked lack of sympathy for the characters – Prospect is good, not great.
So a solid 3-star rating it is.
The film was nominated for multiple awards at FilmQuest, including: Best Feature Film, Best Director of a Feature – Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl, Best Actor in a Feature – Pedro Pascal (WIN), Best Actress in a Feature – Sophie Thatcher (WIN), Best Supporting Actor in a Feature – Jay Duplass, Best Cinematography in a Feature – Zeek Earl, Best Sound for a Feature, Best Score for a Feature, Best Production Design in a Feature, Best Costumes for a Feature, Best Visual Effects in a Feature and Best Makeup in a Feature.
A bit of trivia: Prospect was originally a short film, which also played at FilmQuest back in 2014.
Prospect is still making its way across the festival circuit, thus no wider release information is yet available.