Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Approaching the Unknown: Mars Beckons
William D. Stanaforth is going where no man has gone before—and he is going it
alone. He was always meant to arrive on Mars first, but he might have to wait
longer than he expected before anyone joins him. That assumes he will reach the
Red Planet, but that is far from assured in Mark Elijah Rosenberg’s Approaching the Unknown (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
is the very model of a modern major astronaut. He is a crackerjack pilot, but
he is also a first rate engineer. In fact, one of the primary reasons for his
selection was the water harvester he invented. Unfortunately, the contraption
worked just fine in the desert, but he cannot get it up and running in his
module, which indirectly causes other technical issues. Captain Emily Maddox,
who is piloting the mission directly following his, also has mechanical
breakdowns. There is a good chance it will just be Stanaforth heading towards
Mars, with his shaky sanity, failing life support systems, and the nagging
transmissions from his pal Louis “Skinny” Skinner at Mission Control.
sir, it is like Gravity for The Martian, with a bit of Europa Report thrown in for good
measure. Nonetheless, it is hard to resent a bit of borrowing in a film that
celebrates the daring sacrifice of space exploration. Approaching is also unusually cerebral film, relying far less on
effects than the obvious big budget comparison films. Production designer
Steven Brower and his team also make the module interior look spectacularly
trashed when conditions start going south.
the key to the film is the ever-reliable but strangely under-heralded Mark
Strong, who really is one of the best in the business. Frankly, he is probably too
big to be an astronaut, but in all other respects, he is perfect for the
tightly-wound, relentlessly driven Stanaforth. He pretty much carries the film
single-handedly, which is fortunate, since his co-stars only appear boxed-up on
Stanaforth’s monitor screens. However, Anders Danielsen Lie (from Oslo, August 31st) and
Charles Baker genuinely radiate bad karma as the two twitchy, stir crazy space
station astronauts who are supposed to be Stanaforth last human contact for
months (perhaps even years).
Viewers will probably have a good idea where Approaching is headed, but Rosenberg
still lands his big, significant closing. In fact, it is rather refreshing to
see an idealistic film that believes in the values of the Apollo missions and
the original Star Trek. Recommended
for those who support interplanetary exploration and intimate chamber drama, Approaching the Unknown opens tomorrow
(6/3) in New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Mark Strong, Mars