VOD film review: 400 Days
Matthew Turner | On 19, Aug 2016
Director: Matt Osterman
Cast: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Ben Feldman, Dane Cook, Tom Cavanagh, Grant Bowler
Watch 400 Days online in the UK: Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / TalkTalk Player / eir Vision Movies / Rakuten TV
This professional-looking, not-quite space thriller represents the first theatrical offering from the SyFy cable channel. In terms of quality, it marks a significant step up for the network, who are more usually associated with cheap and cheerful creature features in the vein of Sharknado or Lavantula. However, despite some atmospheric direction and the best efforts of the cast, the film is ultimately let down by a frustratingly underwritten script.
The film opens with a montage of real-life space race footage from the last few decades (speeches by Kennedy, Reagan, Obama, etc.), before settling on a team of four would-be astronauts – square-jawed Theo (Brandon Routh), space nerd Bug (Ben Feldman), swaggering smartarse Dvorak (Dane Cook) and sensible ship’s doctor Emily (Caity Lotz) – who have agreed to take part in a gruelling 400-day deep space simulation that will take place in an underground mock-up of their spacecraft. As the experiment progresses, various personal problems (Theo and Emily have recently ended a secret relationship; Bug feels guilty for abandoning his young son) rear their heads and the team are plagued by paranoia, hallucinations and claustrophobia, none of which is helped by the shock discovery of a mysterious intruder that causes them to question the real purpose of their mission.
The production design inspires confidence immediately (particularly if you’ve ever seen a SyFy film before), with Traci Hays’ pristine, gleaming spaceship interior recalling classic sci-fi fare, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Alien. In addition, Osterman has a nice line in simmering tension, with a strong feel for just how easy it would be to lash out in such claustrophobic conditions.
Unfortunately, the script makes the questionable decision to expand the film’s setting in the second half, which dissipates the accumulated tension in favour of a thinly-sketched, Twilight Zone-style plot development that never really convinces.
The film has been attractively cast with familiar TV faces (the presence of Legends of Tomorrow co-stars Lotz and Routh will certainly prove a draw in some quarters) and the actors do their best with what they’re given, but the characterisation is disappointingly one-note throughout and the script fails to capitalise on some potentially interesting ideas, such as Dvorak’s clear interest in Emily and the jealousy that provokes in Theo. Similarly, the film leaves too many unanswered questions, which renders an already underwhelming climax doubly irritating.