'3022': Film Review

3022 Still 2 -Omar Epps  -Saban Films Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Saban Films
Familiar, but effective.

Omar Epps and Kate Walsh star in John Suits' sci-fi thriller about astronauts trapped aboard a space station after a possible extinction-level event on Earth.

Outer-space thrillers have considerably upped the ante in recent years, thanks to the profusion of such exemplars of the genre as The Martian, Gravity, Interstellar and Ad Astra, among others.  It therefore took no small amount of nerve for director John Suits (Loitering With Intent, Extracted) to weigh in with his low-budget offering about trouble aboard a space station. While 3022, which wasn't screened in advance for critics, doesn't prove of the same caliber as those films, it delivers enough tense atmospherics to make it worth checking out for sci-fi fans.

Despite what you may guess from the title, the story is set slightly closer to the present, in the year 2190 to be precise. The action takes place aboard Pangea, a space station on a 10-year mission, populated by a small crew consisting of Captain John Lane (Omar Epps, USA's Shooter), his romantic partner Jackie (Kate Walsh, Private Practice), medical officer Richard (Angus Macfadyen, Braveheart) and younger astronaut Lisa (Miranda Cosgrove, iCarly).

After a montage depicting the trip's happy, early days, set to treacly piano music, the action shifts forward five years, when everyone onboard is clearly the worse for wear. John, in particular, suffers from "night terrors," which in extreme cases causes him to become violent while sleeping. Jackie pines for the daughter she left behind on earth, and the others are generally feeling the effects of five years in space.

In one of the film's few lighthearted moments, Lisa sighs, "It was so nice when we got here. We were happy. Richard was showering."

The group's emotional instability threatens to cancel the rest of their mission, but before that can happen a mysterious explosion buffets the ship. Richard is left briefly catatonic, and Lisa suffers a serious head injury. More important, it seems that they may have felt the repercussions of an extinction-level event that may have wiped out everyone on Earth and would leave them isolated in space.

It would be too much of a spoiler alert to indicate what happens next, but director Suits successfully ratchets up the tension, although not quite enough to prevent one from hoping that a small alien would burst out of someone's chest. The film works best when depicting the charged emotional dynamics among its main characters, while the introduction of an additional three-person crew (Enver Gjokaj, Haaz Sleiman and Jorja Fox of CSI) rescued from another space station leads to more predictable thriller dynamics, especially since they all speak in foreign accents that instantly leads you to believe they're up to no good.

One of the less effective elements in Ryan Binaco's screenplay is the use of flash-forwards scattered throughout the film, in which we see a bearded, disheveled John, possibly the only survivor of the ship. The brief episodes are not only tedious, they also inadvertently serve to stop the action cold.

Epps handles the stalwart hero thing well enough by now, Walsh delivers an effectively intense performance, and Cosgrove and Macfadyen manage to invest their turns with some subtle humor. Considering the obvious budget limitations, the special effects and physical aspects of the production are convincing. Less convincing, however, is the sight of astronauts smoking cigarettes, nearly 200 years in the future, no less. It certainly doesn't bode well for today's anti-smoking campaigns.

Production: Kew Media Distribution, Squid Farm, Hideout Pictures, Bondit Media Capital, Octane Entertainment, Natural Selection Productions, Title Media
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Omar Epps, Kate Walsh, Miranda Cosgrove, Enver Gjokaj, Haaz Sleiman, Angus Macfadyen, Jorja Fox
Director/editor: John Suits
Screenwriter: Ryan Bianco
Producers: John Suits, Tara L. Craig
Executive producers: Ryan Bianco, William V. Bromiley, Shanan Becker, Jonathan Saba, Ness Saban, Jack Campbell, Ryan Noto, Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, Shannon Houchins, Potsy Ponciroli, Trevor O'Neill, Kathryn Lyn, Giles Daoust, Catherine Dumonceaux
Director of photography: Will Stone
Production designer: David Dean Ebert
Composer: Jimmy LaValle
Costume designer: Adriana Lambarri

Rated R, 91 minutes