Directed by Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl.
Starring Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal, Jay Duplass, Andre Royo, Sheila Vand, and Anwan Glover.
A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich.
Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s starburst-bright debut rockets the tandem into a class of filmmaker whose premiere effort is deeply developed far beyond “first timer” preconceptions. Prospect is engaging, guns-blazing, transformative science fiction exploding with character. All the desperado charms of Wild West varmints set against crater-pockmark planetary backdrops instead of rocky mountain ranges. As fortune once attracted miners to San Francisco, Caldwell and Earl update period placement with futuristic rock-hopping on a marvelous scale. How craftsmen can make sci-fi look *this* easy would take a rocket scientist to explain.
Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her father Damon (Jay Duplass) have been contracted to harvest valuable space crystals for a mercenary squadron. Upon arrival on their moon destination, competition saunters over in the form of Ezra (Pedro Pascal). Greed clouds judgment, competition butt heads, and before long, Cee realizes that her only chance of survival is forging forward alone. What starts as a job turns into a fight to blast back into orbit alive – before everyone’s ride home circles thrice around the moon and hyperspeeds back home.
Prospect can be uttered in the same breath as Upgrade and Moon – indie science fiction stunners fluent in universe building. Guns for hire, glistening atmospheric particles, and combustible gemstones would fit into most subgenre keyholes. Caldwell and Earl grant life to Prospect’s smallest details like how alien mining techniques involve carnivorous entry points if not lubricated, squirmy jewel sacks, and self-destruction if not extracted correctly. Air-tight suits differ in color and style between individuals. Aesthetics detail a far-away reality, otherworldly from the second Cee plants foot-to-soil atop their payday’s surface.
Pistolero encounters promise exciting space bandit tension where ambushes could occur at any moment, but scenes are driven by chemistry between Sophie Thatcher and Pedro Pascal. For a large stretch, the two unlikely traveling partners must rely on each other’s expertise – but no trust is in place, or deserved. Pascal’s Ezra attempts to rob Damon and Cee blind upon first interaction, something Cee refuses to forget. Her blaster always drawn, even when Ezra has to remind her. It’s the secondary fatherhood arc where mutual agreements lead to guards dropping, bonds hardening, and “redemption” by outlaw actions. Pascal the slick-talker, Thatcher a child who alone reverts to headphones and food fights against her ship’s wall.
Cee and Ezra – for all their differences – must endure. This is not an easy task in space, accentuated by stellar effects work. Weaponry flashes steely steampunk blueprints while sound design zips energy ammo bullets through shadowy night landscapes. Caldwell and Earl are meticulous when it comes to the smallest details, as a certain medical operation introduces magic cutters that can slice bone and magic goo – think caulk, but for people – that successfully amputates an appendage. In some films, these would be afterthoughts or more human tools. In Prospect, the mundane becomes memorable. History repeats itself in theme, but this sci-fi sandbox is a whole new world. Imaginative, robust, and impressively fine-tuned.
Science fiction, in this reviewer’s eyes, is the hardest genre to competently sell. Prospect encounters *no* such issue. Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl flip through their “dangerous riches” adventure with wonderment and glee as a child might react to turning comic book pages. Thrills are nary in short order, and Pedro Pascal shines as a fantasy cowboy bringing the “Old West” to this “New Frontier.” One of the best sci-fi films of 2018 doesn’t depend on Wookies, “Kessel Runs,” or Porgs. Frankly, it’s hiding in plain sight, waiting to take the genre world by storm. Don’t cryo-sleep on this one.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).