Saturday, 13 October 2012

Outland

Outland; science-fiction crime, UK, 1981; D: Peter Hyams, S: Sean Connery, Frances Sternhagen, James Sikking, Peter Boyle

In the future, a space mining station specialized in excavating titanium was established on Io, the Jupiter's moon. A new marshal, O'Neil, starts investigating bizarre behavior of some workers who commit suicide in an act of madness. They can all be tracked down to an illegal drug that makes the workers more productive, yet often causes their brains to "burn out". The drugs are supplied by Sheppard, who runs the station, because it increases the profit. Since O'Neil refuses to turn a blind eye, killers are set loose on him, while nobody wants to help him, except a cynical woman, Dr. Lazarus. O'Neil kills the killers and arrests Sheppard.

"High Noon" in space - Peter Hyams science-fiction "western" "Outland" is a patchwork that unevenly blends gore, sometimes trashy violence with an actually more ambitious narrative revolving around the theme from Zinnemann's classic, i.e. that when a hero with integrity is in real trouble, everyone abandons him, and depending on each viewers' perception, the one or the other element will prevail during the viewing experience. If the viewers can tolerate the fact that a wonderful sequence is sometimes followed by heavy handed, cheap violence (head exploding when exposed to space) and that the final showdown isn't half as good as it could have been, "Outland" is actually a fairly suspenseful crime film and gains plus points thanks to amazing special effects, good lighting, a great little intro that uses subtitles to explain the purpose of the mining station on Io and the number of people on it, some good ideas (the inventive scene where Marshal O'Neil is attacked from behind by a thug who tries to strangle him with a rope: O'Neil pretends to be dead, upon which the thug releases him. O'Neil then proceeds to knock him out because he had a protective shield collar around his neck), whereas Sean Connery is charismatic as always but Frances Sternhagen almost steals the show as the surprisingly memorable, deliciously cynical Dr. Lazarus. After "Star Wars" and "Alien" paved the way for an explosion of science-fiction on film, numerous cheap imitators did not do that opportunity justice, yet "Outland" is arguably one of the few better done examples.

Grade;++

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