'400 Days': Film Review

Courtesy of Syfy Films
Like its characters, the film never lifts off.
1/15/2016

Four astronauts undergo a grueling training simulation in Matt Osterman's sci-fi thriller.

There's a suspenseful air of claustrophobia for a good portion of Matt Osterman's sci-fi thriller marking the initial theatrical offering from the Syfy cable channel. Unfortunately, a strained attempt at a Twilight Zone-style mysteriousness in its final act proves the undoing of 400 Days, although it's miles above the network's usual Sharknado-type fare.

The high-concept film — which may attract genre fans on VOD, thanks to the relatively high-profile cast and renewed interest in space-themed thrillers after Gravity and The Martian — is largely set in an underground spaceship simulator. There, four astronauts, including Theo (Brandon Routh), Bug (Ben Feldman), Dvorak (Dane Cook) and the ship's comely doctor, Emily (Caity Lotz), are experiencing the effects of prolonged space travel — 400 days, to be exact.

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At first, the movie resembles Alien in its depiction of the casual but emotionally strained interactions among the foursome. Flashbacks reveal that Emily and Theo were once engaged and that she broke up with him, so horndog Dvorak's constant hitting on her does not help matters. Bug, meanwhile, suffers from guilt over having left his young son for such a long period of time.

Still, the mission proceeds apace until near its conclusion, when the team begins hearing strange noises coming from above and, more dangerously, starts to suffer from the effects of oxygen deprivation. A heated argument ensues between Dvorak, who insists that they abandon their post, and the others, who suspect that it may all be a part of the simulation. The former finally has his way, but when the group arrives aboveground they discover a situation far different from what they expected.

To reveal more would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that Tom Cavanagh (The Flash) shows up in a colorfully villainous role.

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Its intriguing premise devolving into familiar genre conventions, 400 Days also suffers from clichéd characters and strained dialogue. There are some clever touches along the way, including an opening montage of space-related archival footage and a sly nod to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey via a rendition of the song "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)." The performers, not exactly cast against type (Routh as the square-jawed hero, Cook as the sarcastic jerk, etc.), handle their duties well, and despite its limited budget, the pic looks terrific, with Traci Hays' sets particularly impressive. But by the time 400 Days reaches its preposterous conclusion, you'll feel like it has taken place in real time. 

Production: New Artists Alliance, XLrator Media
Distributor: Syfy Films
Cast: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Ben Feldman, Dane Cook, Tom Cavanagh, Grant Bowler
Director-screenwriter: Matt Osterman
Producers: Gabe Cowan, John Suits
Executive producers: Dane Cook, Mandy Adams Wolf, Curtis Raines, Andrew Orci, Jonathan Schurgin
Director of photography: Bo Hakala
Production designer: Traci Hays
Editors: Nicholas Larrabure, Gabriel Cowan
Costume designer: Martina Jeans
Composers: Wojciech Goldzewski, Sean McMahaon

Not rated, 90 minutes

 

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