Sunday, February 21, 2016

Movie Review: 400 DAYS

In a time when space exploration films are all the rave (Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian), it's nice to see a different take on the subject.  400 Days shows you a darker side of space without ever actually going into space.

This is the first crack at a larger, theatrical release from Syfy Films, the studio best known for films like Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Ice Spiders, Dinocroc Vs Supergator, and of course Sharknado.  With that being said, it's definitely a step up from the over-CGI, B-movie, monster flicks they normally do, but it still has its problems.

400 Days is a psychological sci-fi thriller that centers on four training astronauts who are placed in a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effect of deep space travel.  Locked away for 400 days, the crew's mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world.  They soon discover that all isn't what it seems, or is it?  

In the sophomore film from writer/director Matt Osterman (Ghost from the Machine), we get a thrilling look at what isolation can really do to the least in the first half.  Paranoia and hallucinations ensue as this more-than-year-long experiment heads toward its end.  That's when the movie takes a turn.  Up until then the film was a psychological sci-fi film, delving into the mind and what can push someone over the edge, but then it turns deadly as it becomes a The Hills Have Eyes-type of horror flick, complete with creepy, cannibalistic townsfolk.  It feels like two completely different films that try to merge together at the very end.

One of the best parts of the film is the great cast.  We get to see an Arrow/The Flash/Legends of Tomorrow reunion with Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, and Tom Cavanagh.  This is one of Routh's best performances, in my opinion, and Cavanagh is great as always.  They are joined by Dane Cook (who worked as an EP on the film as well), Ben Feldman (Mad Men) and Grant Bowler (Defiance).  Cook stays within his wheelhouse, playing the funny man/jerk, but he actually give a good performance, particularly during the first half of the film.

The first 45 minutes of the movie shoot through the majority of the 400 days, focusing on how the crew is affected mentally and emotionally.  I loved this part.  It was a bit of a slow burn as far as development goes, but that's one of the things I actually really liked about it.  It made me think and gave a bit of mystery to the events taking place.  The second half, which, as I said, became more like a horror film, was less impressive, falling into clich├ęd horror tropes, and weaker performances.  The two halves merge together in the end, giving the film a strange feel.  

However, the most divisive part of the film is the very end, which makes you question whether or not everything that has been happening was all part of the simulation, or actually taking place.  This is one of the several unanswered questioned posed in this film, yet even with these and the various plot holes throughout, 400 Days still intrigued me.  You even get a clever little reference to Stanley Kubrick's Classic space film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I was definitely taken aback by the WTF ending, but the potential was there and it really made me think, something a lot of movie today fail to do.  I would recommend checking it out for yourself to see how you feel about the film as a whole.

The Merc's Score: 6/10

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