It’s been a while, but I have talked about quite a few titles and filmmakers already.
I mentioned previously that I needed to add EUROPA REPORT to the list. If for no other reason than the way it was filmed, I still believe this is the best sci-fi film around. The use of only unmanned cameras, built-in ship cameras, helmet cams, makes this a unique experience, claustrophobic and real.
If tense, claustrophobic panic is your forte, then you undoubtedly know DAS BOOT, the German WW2 story of a submarine. This film was terrifying, as the boat evades depth charges and plunges beyond the range it was designed to handle. There is no excess space anywhere, and the camera is right in the crew’s sweating faces, awaiting death.
The film ALIEN lives on as a classic for its similar vibe and its slimy, gritty textures. There is an unspoken drama with being confined, trapped in a hostile situation. This confinement works well on film, provided that the sets are convincing. The second installment, ALIENS, continued this formula to great effect.
John Carpenter tried his hand at it in GHOSTS OF MARS, an over the top space zombie extravaganza. The film has unconventional heroes and menacing hordes of transformed martian/human hybrids. Carpenter’s films usually stand apart because he also scores the soundtracks, lacing them with his signature synthesizer stylings.
A far less gritty, but ultimately isolated situation was MOON. A surprise twist and an unfolding realization make this a highly dramatic plot. Nearly the entire film is one character discovering his place in the off-world.
Robert Redford found himself in a similar boat in ALL IS LOST. Hard to imagine, but a full-length feature can be crafted around one actor, one situation, and the drive to survive.
Which brings me to a far less obscure film, and one of my favorites of the post-millennium era: LIFE OF PI. An Oscar winner, most people would have seen it by now. I absolutely love this film, and it left me mesmerized and spellbound for its entire duration when I saw it. It’s one of the most gorgeous looking movies of all time, and the story is layered, mysterious and presented like no other movie before it. It’s also got the survival motive at its beating heart, but even that is pitted against the quest for meaning and the divine.