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What is it about the end of the world that drives the plots of so many movies? Our mortality, and recognizing what it means as a species makes contemplating our extinction a challenging one, one that filmmakers have long attempted to give greater meaning, exploring the possibilities of survival in just about all genres. With The Last Scout, it is a bit of horror but mostly drama, in a film that has high concepts and grand visions, though a number of issues weaken its potential.
After Earth is nearly rendered lifeless in the aftermath of a sudden nuclear fallout, the survivors send a fleet of scout ships into the galaxy to search for a new home. Seven years later, the small crew of the Pegasus is nearing its destination when it comes upon a seemingly deserted Chinese derelict vessel drifting in space. Upon investigating though, they find they aren’t alone and the fight for survival takes on a whole new meaning.
Directed by Simon Phillips, who also stars, The Last Scout is a curious little indie film, a talky adventure that is paced and produced like a 1960s television show, with big gaudy, blinky control panels and dull, flat, lifeless sets that are at best, inert environments where the small cast stand and talk and talk some more, staring longing into space and at each other. The plot is pretty simple, and admittedly, most of the dialogue is compelling enough, though the direction and performances are far too stagnant, which after the long runtime, seems to be a purposeful choice.
Perhaps a bit reminiscent of Paul W.S. Anderson‘s Event Horizon (1997) or Christian Alvart‘s Pandorum (2009), the film presents itself like a space thriller but is in actuality mostly far from it, with long moments of silence and torpid action. It’s not helped by characters that are paper thin and spend a significant amount of time lying in their beds. The captain (Blaine Gray) is haunted by questions of his leadership, and Gray is well cast, if not a bit brooding. Others do their best, though the script lets most down, with one character an obvious bad guy from the start, spouting cantankerous lines at the captain before exiting the room in a huff, over and over. It’s unintentionally funny in a movie that is trying very hard to be serious.
That same character serves as the only real politically-motivated plot point, disparaging the Chinese as often as he can, though it’s only alluded vaguely as to why. The film is less concerned with why they are on the journey rather than the routines of being on it. Conversations about wanting to eat proper meals instead of space food seem less than authentic, especially after seven years in space, but empty back and forths between characters lying in their bunks about the mundane rarely give the story any depth, mostly because there is just no joy in the dreary sets and lifeless direction.
The Last Scout is without a doubt, an ambitious project, and there is no denying that is has a style all its own, steering far from the standard sci-fi sets and visual flare of modern cinema. And while its ending can be seen light years before it happens, at least there is some honesty in the fate of the crew, something many mainstream movies might avoid. An experimental project that will appeal to old-school enthusiasts and fans of conversation-heavy filmmaking, The Last Scout reaches for the stars but can’t quite make orbit.
Movie description: The Last Scout is a 2017 sci-fi thriller about a crew traveling through space, looking for a suitable home after Earth has become inhospitable.
Director(s): Simon Phillips
Actor(s): Blaine Gray, Simon Phillips, Rebecca Ferdinando
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller