Last Sentinel, 2023.
Directed by Tanen Toom.
Starring Kate Bosworth, Lucien Laviscount, Martin McCann, and Thomas Kretschmann.
A squad of soldiers is stranded on an abandoned military base on near-future Earth, waiting for relief or the enemy, whichever comes first.
The dystopian future in Last Sentinel (riffing on where our current world is potentially headed) that director Tanel Toom has conjured up is bleakly relevant and compelling but also feels lost in favor of telling a survivalist story (penned by Malachi Smyth) about a group of four stationed at an outpost for three months past their initial two-year scheduling, losing their cool, finding themselves at odds with one another, and going as far as a betrayal.
Between climate change and human destruction, Earth has become uninhabitable aside from two elevated stretches of land on different continents. Everything else is an oceanic wasteland, which necessitates the previously mentioned outposts to protect what way of living remains from an unknown enemy. The outpost is also equipped with a nuke that becomes armed and unarmed throughout the two-hour running time as characters engage in conflict with each other and the enemy they have apparently been at war with for decades.
These characters are introduced during a perilous prologue that sees a storm wiping out structural damage of the outpost, generators, and more equipment inside while almost claiming one of their lives due to the flooding. Once things are relatively safe again, it’s made aware that Thomas Kretschmann is the loyal Sergeant dedicated to the job at any illogical cost, Kate Bosworth is Corporal Cassidy, levelheaded and sexually entangled with comms crewmember Sullivan (Lucien Laviscount), and Baines (Martin McCann) is the temperamental but efficient engineer.
A ship comes sailing by that may or may not be the relief team, with Sullivan ordered to check it out while a trigger-happy sergeant Hendrichs is quick to arm the weapons and blow it to kingdom come just because he’s not getting any response regarding the investigation. Hendrichs is controlling and convinced they must stay where they are, while Sullivan and Baines are determined to repair the ship so they can, hopefully, escape the sanctuary. Considering all the damage that has been inflicted on the outpost, it’s also possible that the structure has been drifting and that the crew doesn’t necessarily know where they are.
The drama is there, and Tanel Toom is a confident filmmaker, comfortable slowing down the pacing while indulging in a distinctive look for this technology on display. There is naturalism to the performances and even the mundane handyman aspects. Everything about the outpost, from its design to the character interactions, makes it feel like a lived-in space where people would slowly start to go mad inside, pointing fingers at one another.
What’s frustrating is that Last Sentinel mostly compounds that mystery and initial world-building with generic character reveals and revelations. The film goes through the motions of painting each individual as problematic in some way, driving home its message that humans will continue to fuck each other over (which is also a piece of straight from Cassidy). This and its environmentalist activism feel abandoned for a meandering study of four archetypes. That’s a shame since Tanel Toom is impressive regarding the film’s craftsmanship; one wishes deeper characters were here to bolster the narrative’s timely themes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com