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Escape Pod (2023) Review

Asher (Patrick Sharn, The Life, Death, and Afterlife of Anna-Catherine, The Kid’s Revenge) has a lot to deal with as Escape Pod opens. The last thing he remembers is getting ready to take a placement test for a position on Starline’s Magellan space mission. Now he’s regained consciousness to find himself in an escape pod with Maia (Fallon Gyurko, The OctoGames, Young Rock) who tells him he’s been working on the Magellan 3 for the past five years.

Now he’s dealing with both memory loss and the realization that he’s floating in space somewhere near Alpha Centauri waiting for NASA to come and rescue him. While he waits, he’s stuck listening to Maia bitching at him because he was an upgrade Technician, a maintenance man in plainer language, he doesn’t remember any of his training. Considering how many things seem wrong with the pod, it would be a good thing if he did, though.

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That’s where Aaron Mirtes (Alien Hunt, The Alpha Test) begins his microbudget sci-fi thriller, and when I say microbudget I mean just that. Early in the film, they have to deal with a malfunctioning communications system. Asher, who seems to have regained some of his memory, troubleshoots it, and we see that it’s an old RAM chip with some wires, one of which has been cut, glued to it.

There’s also a Walmart special toolbox filled with Stanley tools. That should be a warning to anyone who can’t handle DIY filmmaking to find something else to watch, because Escape Pod isn’t going to get any more high-tech than this.

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What get is a bunch of inconveniently placed asteroids, flooding, and Gael (Brad Belemjian, Death Ranch, Painted in Blood), a stowaway hiding in the hold. That in turn means there’s three people in an escape pod with enough oxygen to keep two people alive until the rescue craft arrives. And that’s not counting the alien organism the stowaway is infected with, the only proof of extraterrestrial life they’ve found.

Like most no budget science fiction, Escape Pod is long on talk, with only an occasional burst of action and even rarer effects. Although given the quality of the effects we do get, the lack of them is probably a good thing. Instead, Mirtes concentrates on building suspense as Asher has to choose who to believe as Gael and Maia trade accusations, and it becomes obvious that neither of them are who they claim to be.

If he’d used this basic plot in a more mundane setting, he probably would have made a much better movie. Because as a basic, low budget thriller, Escape Pod isn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not edge of your seat material, but there’s enough doubt sown about the characters to keep things interesting. But the poor effects and science fiction trappings consistently undercut it. I’m not saying he should have set it in a train station, like Bill Rebane did with his alien microbe film The Alpha Incident, but somewhere more in line with the film’s budget like a research facility here on Earth.

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Thankfully, the cast does a convincing enough job to get the film through most of its rougher spots without losing my interest, though there were a couple of times it came close. And, unfortunately, no cast could save Escape Pod from an ending that made me want to throw something at my monitor. I can’t believe someone with as many features under their belt as Mirtes has thought that was an acceptable piece of plotting.

ITN has released Escape Pod to several streaming services, including Tubi. If you don’t mind the ads and can watch it there or a similar service, it might still be worth your time, but I can’t recommend paying money to rent it.

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Our Score

1 thought on “Escape Pod (2023) Review”

  1. I enjoy low-budget science fiction movies; always find it interesting to see what kind of special effects they can present. Escape Pod is among the best of the genre. Yes, the tool box was so unrealistic that it was distracting. There were other implausible scenes. However it was well-acted and very well written, with an ending that made sense of all the plot elements that came before. (I detest the ambiguous, unresolved endings of most low-budget scifi.) It raised interesting ethical and interpersonal issues, and integrated them well into the plot.

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