Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

dir-scr Neil Burger
prd Basil Iwanyk, Brendon Boyea, Neil Burger
with Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead, Colin Farrell, Chante Adams, Viveik Kalra, Archie Madekwe, Quintessa Swindell, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Madison Hu, Archie Renaux, Wern Lee
release US 9.Apr.21,
UK 2.Jul.21
21/US 1h48

whitehead farrell adams

Is it streaming?

depp and sheridan
Infused with moody atmospherics, this sci-fi thriller plays out like Lord of the Flies in space as a ship's crew becomes gripped by paranoia. Writer-director Neil Burger indulges in a barrage of wacky sounds, visuals and effects to divert attention from the thin plot. There are intriguing ideas layered throughout the premise, and some strong suspense in the storytelling, but the approach is slow, obvious and preachy.
As Earth is dying in 2063, scientists find a suitable alternate planet that's an 86-year voyage away. Richard (Farrell) raises a 30-person crew in an isolated simulation so they won't miss Earth, then leads them into space as children whose grandchildren will populate humanity's new home. A decade into the mission, now-teen leader Christopher (Sheridan) and his friend Zac (Whitehead) realise that they're being drugged to remove their primal sensations and urges. Going off the meds leads to suspicions and rebellion, as Zac challenges Christopher's authority and half the crew goes with him.
The camerawork strongly evokes the heady new feelings these young people begin to experience, as well as their naive ways of expressing them. But while Burger sets a stately pace, he never finds the depth of meaning needed to sustain it, which makes the film oddly inert, even as freaky things start to happen. It doesn't help that the hint of some sort of threatening alien force distracts from the more interesting human interaction. And a timid, teen-friendly filmmaking approach eliminates the chance to take this somewhere bold and memorable.

The youthful all-star cast adds plenty of interest, layering interest even if their characters remain annoyingly schematic. Sheridan is likeable as the conscientious Christopher, who is trying to hold things together. By contrast, Whitehead's Zac is little more than a shifty provocateur who would be required to twirl his moustache if he had one. In between them, Depp has strong presence as the rather blank Sela, who gets little to do but fret about the boys. Other members of the ensemble seize opportunities to stand-out. And Farrell provides a nicely understated, and rather thankless, turn.

Most intriguing are the clever observations about what happens when everyone loses their impulse control at once, ranging from curiosity to jealousy. But Burger seems uninterested in anything terribly complex, degenerating instead into the usual violence. There are some painfully obvious parallels, such as how these young people don't really care about their grandchildren. And the ideas this film throws around about true human nature are both preposterous and dangerous.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuaity 12.Mar.21

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