HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PANDORUM -- DVD review by porfle

Imagine if ALIEN RESURRECTION had been really grim and scary instead of just a fun, pulpy, and ultimately silly sci-fi/action flick. Or if EVENT HORIZON had really kicked major ass instead of just coming frustratingly close. Or if Ridley Scott and James Cameron were Siamese twins. That's pretty much what you get with PANDORUM (2009), one of the most satisfying sci-fi thrillers I've seen in quite a while.

As the film opens, the immense space ark Elysium is carrying thousands of refugees from a dying Earth to another planet that can sustain human life. Crewmen Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid) are awakened from hypersleep to discover that something has gone very wrong--during their abnormally long hibernation, a space sickness known as Pandorum has driven certain other crewmembers and passengers mad. Not only have the ship's systems been sabotaged, but a segment of the ship's population have mutated into terrifying flesh-eating creatures known as Hunters.

With Payton trying to gain access to the bridge, Bower sets off to find the ship's reactor in order to restore power and keep the ship from self-destructing. Along the way he meets warrior woman Nadia (Antje Traue) and Vietnamese badass Manh (Cung Le) who help him survive against wave after wave of attacks from the almost-invulnerable mutants. As time runs out and the symptoms of Pandorum begin to set in, Bower eventually discovers the shocking secret of how truly disastrous their situation is.

PANDORUM starts out with an intriguing mystery that's only gradually revealed as Bower's odyssey takes him further into the bowels of the cursed ship. The fact that he has partial amnesia due to his extended hypersleep means that he must discover each part of the puzzle along with us. We never know if he can trust Payton, who's starting to act a little funny, or if Bower himself may be suffering from delusions. The fellow crewmembers he meets along the way are equally in the dark, while the ones who have been out of hypersleep longer than Bower have become ruthless killers bent only on day-to-day survival.

As Bower, Ben Foster gives an intense performance that finally helps me forget him as Charlie Prince in 3:10 TO YUMA, with old pro Dennis Quaid ideal in the role of Payton. The rest of the cast is also very good, particularly Antje Traue as the lovely and dynamic Nadia. Not quite as lovely but just as effective are Cung Le as Manh and, in a smaller role, Eddie Rouse as a cunning survivor with a culinary interest in our heroes. Cam Gigandet (of the TWILIGHT saga) is suitably mysterious as crewmember Gallo, who may be behind the Pandorum-induced sabotage of the ship and its vital mission.

Director Christian Alvart has crafted a stylish, great-looking film with beautiful cinematography and stunning set design that is continuously impressive. Camerawork is fine and editing is sharp while only occasionally bordering on the hyperactive. Special effects, including an imaginative ship design that looks really cool in the fly-bys, are top-notch.

The late Stan Winston's creature shop supplies some very effective and convincing Hunter-monsters, which reminded me somewhat of the subterranean creatures in THE DESCENT but are even uglier and way more deadly. CGI is used with restraint and doesn't draw attention to itself, which is how CGI should always be used as far as I'm concerned.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Surround 5.1 and Spanish mono, with English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include a making-of featurette, flight team "training video", a short film that shows us the fate of Nadia's team, several deleted and alternate scenes, and a trailer. There's also a commentary by director Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt which is loaded with behind-the-scenes info.

A scintillating space thriller that's both mindbending and action-packed, PANDORUM is a riveting experience that keeps the viewer in suspense until the twist ending. It's definitely up for a spot on my list of favorite sci-fi flicks.

Buy it at
Buy it at HK Flix

No comments: