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Review: PROSPECT (2018) – Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival 2018

Expanding a short film to feature length is a risky undertaking. Maybe not as risky as mining in a galactic gold rush, but not that much safer either. Starting life as a fourteen-minute short, PROSPECT from writer/directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl is an example of the dangers of both.

Damon (Jay Duplass) and his daughter Cee (Sophie Thatcher) are miners. Working on the fringes of society and scraping to get by. It’s a future where equipment is mix and match, bought at auction and field repaired until it’s on the brink of total failure. Damon gets wind of the location of a mother load of Aurelacs, a bizarre gem that’s easy to dig up but hard to extract from the pouches they grow in. He cuts a deal with a group of mercenaries that will make them all rich.

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But when their ship crashes on the hostile planet things become complicated. And despite its poisonous atmosphere and less than friendly natives the planet may not be the biggest danger they face. Other humans are looking to strike it rich as well, and don’t mind killing to do it.

PROSPECT is, at its core, a Western. The frontier holds the promise of incredible wealth, but it also offers violent death in many forms. The planet’s humanoid tribes may or may not be hostile depending on circumstances and there are bandits and desperadoes looking for fast money. It’s the relationship between Cee and one of them, Ezra (Pedro Pascal NARCOS, BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS), a killer with a layer of charm that much of the film revolves around.

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And that’s where the film’s problems set in. Caldwell and Earl do a great job at creating the universe that PROSPECT is set in. They fall considerably short when it comes to creating its inhabitants, however. Over a span of fourteen minutes that isn’t so noticeable, at ninety-eight minutes, however it is. Thatcher turns in a brilliant performance that helps Cee come alive. But Pascal despite his best efforts can’t make Ezra seen like anything more than a charismatic scumbag, and that makes the relationship between the two hard to believe.

An ambitious but flawed attempt a more serious, character-driven, style of science fiction, PROSPECT unfortunately lacks truly compelling characters. The occasional bursts of action and simple but impressive effects aren’t enough to cover that fact up.

PROSPECT is available in the US from Dust, a new science fiction oriented, division of Gunpowder and Sky.

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