400 Days

woman in space helmet

Is it just me or were the last few years particularly great for science fiction fans? Last week I viewed and wrote about Arrival, and this week brings 400 Days, a mind bending psychedelic head trip of a genre mashing success. You wouldn’t know if it you blindly went by the folks reviewing at IMBD, where this film has received a thorough thrashing I feel is completely undeserved.

400 Days main promo image

This film successfully incorporates an element of horror and suspence into a science fiction staple long-range-flight-simulation themed environment full of the usual personalities waiting to explode into conflict. It really has no right to be as engaging and exciting as it actually is. It should be a bore but something makes this film work beyond its potential. I can’t say exactly what it is, and I probably wouldn’t if I could because what would be the fun in me spoiling the film for you all?

man in maze like a rat

None too subtle imagery here

The idea of being a rat in a maze is certainly central to the premise here of being experimentally locked into a mock-ship for 400 days to test our ability to fly to Mars, but this film hits on so much more. The horror elements are wisely sprinkled throughout in reserved doses to keep them affective. Nothing worse than a film which shifts genres suddenly and violently – unless the shift is itself part of some plot twist, but it’s always a risky strategy. Here the tone remains delicately balanced between the more introverted horrors of the psyche being tested by isolation and the outer horrors of the situation our screen folks find themselves in.

woman in bar

Just what is going on here?

I will not be giving away the twists and turns, much less the ending, but I will say the wondering is more than half the fun. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole ride wondering just what I was viewing. To me, that is what makes a film worthy versus some glitter on the screen which fails to tickle even one brain cell. Reminds me of Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski:

People forget that the brain is the biggest erogenous zone.

I really liked the look of this film. Nice smoky greys to contrast with the clinical whites and icky dark scenes. The audio didn’t particularly leave much of an impression with me, but I guess you can’t have everything. There were some catchy sounds that were vibraty almost like bad feedback loops, but music-wise I can’t recall much. In fact I’ll have to listen again to see if there even was a soundtrack.

Anyway, it was great to see a film which achieved such a great level of suspence and held my interest all the way through and which didn’t sully itself with excessive violence, vulgarity or gore (a little of each but nothing excessive) or drown itself out with computer generated dazzle. All you sci-fi fans out there – don’t miss this one.

 

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