'Atomica': Film Review
Dominic Monaghan, Tom Sizemore and Sarah Habel star in this sci-fi thriller about the mysterious goings-on at a remote nuclear power plant.
The original title for the second theatrical release from cable channel Syfy was Deep Burial, and that would have been an appropriate fate for this low-budget, sci-fi thriller. While there’s nothing particularly wrong about minimalistic science fiction — some of the genre’s best offerings have been of that variety — Atomica is a lifeless, tedious affair that won’t play any better on the small screens for which it was obviously intended.
The film is set in that familiar time frame known as the near future, in which a nuclear disaster has resulted in the dwindling use of such power. Only one operating nuclear plant remains — in a remote desert region, naturally — and as the story begins it has ceased communicating with its corporate owner, a mock commercial for which appears in the film’s opening minutes.
Dispatched to investigate the situation is Abby (Sarah Habel, The CW’s Riverdale) who, as engineers are likely to be, is really, really hot. Upon arriving at the facility, she discovers that it’s manned by only two people: the overall-wearing caretaker, Robinson Scott (Dominic Monaghan), who suspiciously greets her wielding a golf club; and the wonderfully named Dr. Zek (Tom Sizemore), who has gone missing since heading out on his own into the radioactive desert region.
Robinson proves himself a decidedly eccentric character, one prone to long, self-confessional monologues that seem mainly designed to pad out the thin story to a full-length running time. He’s also creepy enough to barely apologize after openly watching Abby in the shower, an incident which strangely barely seems to ruffle her.
Eventually Dr. Zek does reappear, but by then Abby has come to the sensible conclusion that there’s something seriously wrong with the two men. The audience, of course, has been way ahead of her in that department.
Monaghan’s quirkily charismatic performance is the only thing making the proceedings remotely bearable, with the actor delivering the same sort of arresting, off-kilter turn here that he did in the recent thriller Pet. Habel does what’s required, including sporting a sexy, skintight outfit and what looks like a motorcycle helmet, while Sizemore, who doesn’t appear until midway through the film, spends much of his screen time either lying in bed (nice work if you can get it), or, in one of the film’s many bizarre sequences, receiving an uncomfortably close shave from Monaghan.
The mostly subterranean setting, bathed in the sort of blue tint that seems di rigueur for science films, proves as claustrophobic for viewers as for the characters, with director Dagen Merrill (Broken Hill, Beneath) failing to make the proceedings any more interesting visually than narratively.
Production company: Lifeboat Productions
Distributor: Syfy Films
Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Tom Sizemore, Sarah Habel
Director: Dagen Merrill
Screenwriters: Kevin Buke, Fred Fernandez-Arnesto, Adam Gyngell
Producers: Jaime Burke, Vahan Paretchan
Executive producers: Kieth Merrill, Dominic Monaghan, Shawn Sackman, Barry Walker
Director of photography: Timothy A. Burton
Production designer: Ben Blankenship
Editors: Joseph Ettinger, Eric Frith
Costume designer: Ronald Leamon
Composer: Christian Davis
Casting: Monica Kelly, Jennifer Treadwell