Starring Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass, Pedro Pascal, Andre Royo, Sheila Vand, Anwan Glover, Luke Pitzrick, Arthur Deranleau, Alex McCauley, Doug Dawson, Krista Johnson, Brian Guntner, Trick Danneker, Christopher Morson, Ben Little and Shepheard Earl.
Screenplay by Zeek Earl & Christopher Caldwell.
Directed by Zeek Earl & Christopher Caldwell.
Distributed by Dust/Gunpowder & Sky. 100 minutes. Not Rated.
Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.
Space is such a big place that sometimes it is refreshing when science fiction films aim a little smaller.
With the exception of some fantastical devices and plot twists, Prospect could just as easily be an old-fashioned western. And because Prospect isn’t so bright and shiny – much of it takes place in the woods of a mostly-uninhabited planet and even its futuristic aspects feel worn and lived in – it is more interesting than many flashier space operas.
Not to mention the fact that there are really only three characters of note in the film – and one disappears from the action about a half hour into the run time. They run across maybe a couple dozen others throughout the plotline, but none of those others make a huge impression, they are mostly just hindrances in the quest.
Prospect tells the story of a space scavenger named Damon (Jay Duplass) and his 12-year-old daughter Cee (Sophie Thatcher), who is his only crew. Damon is a bit of a mercenary and decides to take the two of them down to a nearby planet to harvest some odd but huge space pearls which grow in these sac-like creatures with acidic blood which burrow underground. Damon has set up an agreement to sell them to some space smugglers, but then they have to get back because they only have a short period before their ride back will be taking off. Cee wants to just skip the whole thing, but Damon sees it as chance to get rich.
Things go bad right away, as their pod malfunctions and almost crash lands on the planet, making them unable to return to space. When searching for the gem stones, they run across another mercenary, a charming-but-deadly space pirate named Ezra (Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal) who is on the search for the space creatures. Ezra’s spacecraft is also completely unable to fly. After a stand-off between Damon and Ezra becomes violent, an uneasy truce is formed to ensure mutual survival.
That is about it, really, as far as plotline goes. What follows is a tense trek through the wooded expanse of this wild planet, occasionally coming across other settlers or local creatures, trying to get to the space smugglers in time to mine a legendary hive of the sac creatures and hopefully grab a ride back to the space armada with them.
It’s a quiet, claustrophobic little tale, complete with some intensely disturbing visuals and plot points. (One sequence where a survivor has to have his arm amputated was one of the hardest things I have had to watch on film in quite some time.)
In other ways it’s a quiet little movie, not the normal space adventure. It is really more reminiscent of some of the space operas of the 1970s – things like Silent Running and Dark Star, before Star Wars changed the paradigm. Although, even then, it has a similar feel to the early Tatooine scenes in A New Hope, or the planet exploration episodes of Star Trek.
Prospect is a smart and somewhat introspective space opera. Even when they come across the space smugglers and the story hits some more routine sci-fi beats, it does them in an off-kilter way. (For example, a deadly female smuggler played by Sheila Vand of A Girl Walks Home At Night, speaks completely in a foreign language – with no subtitles.)
With the right kind of distribution and a little PR TLC, Prospect is just the type of movie that can pick up a passionate cult following.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 31, 2018.