Saturday 1 July 2023

Movie Review: Outland (1981)

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller
Director: Peter Hyams
Starring: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen, James Sikking
Running Time: 109 minutes

Synopsis: In the future, William O'Niel (Sean Connery) is the new Marshal on Jupiter's moon Io, home to a mining operation managed by Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle). O'Neil's wife (Kika Markham) is unable to deal with the isolation and leaves him. Along with base doctor Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen), O'Neil investigates an alarming number of miners demonstrating suicidal and irrational behaviour. He uncovers an illegal performance-enhancing drug operation and finds his own life threatened.

What Works Well: The ramshackle industry-in-space aesthetic provides a grounded context and some captivating sets. With Frances Sternhagen contributing acerbic support, Sean Connery is excellent in the few scenes that demand humanity, and the best moments allow reflection on career trajectories crash-landing at remote mining outposts.

What Does Not Work As Well: A startling lack of imagination results in uniforms, haircuts, weapons (shotguns!), and details (corded phones!) that belong in the 1980s rather than the distant future. Without managing to build tension, director Peter Hyams takes his time to establish a High Noon-in-space showdown, and after a mediocre middle act comprehensively botches the climax with non-descript bad guys and lackluster resolutions.

Conclusion: Aims high, but the execution is decidedly underwhelming.

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