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Friday, April 29, 2016

TELEIOS -- Movie Review by Porfle

Remember in GATTACA when normal "inferior" human Ethan Hawke dreamed of going into space like the genetically-altered "superior" humans who got to be astronauts? 

In the suspenseful sci-fi thriller TELEIOS (2016), we get to see a whole crew of such perfect specimens on a mission to Saturn's moon Titan to recover the cargo from an ill-fated mining expedition.  But what happens to them is far from "perfect."

The first thing I noticed is that the look of the film is somewhere between a graphic sci-fi novel and the cover of ELO's "Out of the Blue", with shades of Chesley Bonestell and Ralph McQuarrie.

The limited sets--most of the story takes place aboard either salvage ship Teleios or derelict mining vessel Atromitos, in orbit over Titan--hint at a relatively modest budget, yet everything's finely-rendered and eye-pleasing.

When the crew awaken from their two-year suspended animation, we meet straight-arrow Commander Linden (Lance Broadway, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN), first mate Iris Duncan (Sunny Mabrey, SNAKES ON A PLANE), Doctor Orson (Mykel Shannon Jenkins, DRIFTER: HENRY LEE LUCAS), engineer Chris Zimmer (T.J. Hoban, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", "The Wankers"), and navigator Emma Anderson (Christian Pitre, BOUNTY KILLER).

These genetically-enhanced people have a somewhat doll-like appearance which skirts the edge of the "uncanny valley."  They remain outwardly calm during a crisis--such as the one that greets them minutes after awakening--with only widened eyes betraying their inner anxiety.  After the danger passes, they do allow themselves some mild levity and a sigh of relief.

When they board the Atromitos, we get the familiar trope of listening to the doomed captain's log which starts out normal and then gets progressively worse with each update.  Apparently, there was a mutiny in which the crew killed each other and jettisoned the cargo, supposedly a compound capable of repairing Earth's decaying atmosphere, to Titan's surface.

Only one survivor remains, a lowly engineer named Travis O'Neill (Weetus Cren, CUTTING ROOM, W.M.D.), and he's in an apparent state of mute psychosis.

The tension mounts as the Teleios crew begin to experience a rapid increase in negative emotional responses (violence, anger, hostility, and, in the case of Zimmer and Anderson, uncontrollable sexual desire) and a deterioration of their mental faculties.  When the situation becomes life-threatening, they consider torture or worse to force O'Neill to enlighten them as to what the hell's going on.

It's sort of gratifying to watch these genetically superior humans who smugly refer to unmodified stiffs like the Atromitos crew as "pre-mans" (a non-P.C. term) coming apart at the seams for whatever mysterious reason as their brisk efficiency gives way to irrational behavior, indecision, and fear. 

Their predicament continues to deepen and become more fascinating as the gravity (so to speak) of the situation gradually reaches critical level.  The emphasis here is on mystery and suspense over action (most of which takes place in the last ten or fifteen minutes) and dazzling special effects, but this makes the film no less rewarding of an experience.

Performances are good, especially Sunny Mabrey as Duncan, the only crewmember who seems to be holding it together despite a bad case of the shakes, and Weetus Cren as "inferior" Atromitos survivor O'Neill, who's either crazy as a loon or just putting on an act.

Ursula Mills (PETER PAN) does a terrific pantomime as Lulu AH-320, a mannequin-like robot who serves as O'Neill's love interest and to whom he whispers things in Russian and Mandarin when he thinks no one else is listening.  Michael Nouri (FLASHDANCE, THE HIDDEN) appears on the Teleios' monitor screen periodically as Nordham, the Earth-based mission coordinator who seems to be hiding crucial information from the crew. 

Writer-director Ian Truitner (CUTTING ROOM, THE INTERVIEW) renders his screenplay with fluid, creative camerawork and fills the screen with lots of colorful future-world eye candy. 

While hardly the space-opera rollercoaster ride of STAR WARS or the deeply cerebral mindwarp of 2001, TELEIOS is thoughtful, satisfying sci-fi with an absorbing mystery and some startling plot twists.  And like a good book, it stays with you after the final page is turned. 

Sci-Fi London Film Festival World Premiere:
5:00 pm, May 1, 2016
Stratford East Picturehouse
Salway Rd, London E15 1BX, United Kingdom

Encore Screening:
9:00 pm, May 4, 2016
Stratford East Picturehouse
Salway Rd, London E15 1BX, United Kingd


Watch the trailer

Official site


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