Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Review: Outland

Outland (1981)

Space: The final frontier.  But frontiers can be dangerous places and often the law and order is as thin as a marshal's badge.   In this case, lawman in question is Federal Marshal William O'Neil; just starting his tour of duty on a titanium mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons, Io.  It's bad enough dragging his family from one outpost to another, but when a string of "accidents" occurs that the managing director of the mining operation is a little too keen to shove under the carpet, things get downright dangerous.  And when O'Neil pushes back, things get deadly.

Outland has been called High Noon in space since its release, though that's a bit too simplistic, since it doesn't do more than lift a few ideas from the latter.  Outland isn't as mature or as allegorical a drama as the Gary Cooper Western and it never pretends to be anything except an action movie in an exotic locale, but Sean Connery as O'Neil brings a professionalism and dead-straight approach that makes the audience take him seriously while Peter Boyle enjoys himself as a thoroughly rotten villain.  The set design is pure oil-rig chic and the oddest thing about the film is how the "futuristic" electronics have dated so badly that it's less like science fiction and more like looking into a parallel universe where the solar system was colonised in the 1980s.  It's like watching the Apollo Moon landings and seeing the astronauts and their ship looking like something out of Destination Moon.

Unpretentious, Outland is a fair bit of afternoon watching so long as you don't mind plot holes falling like manhole covers and a space doctor so crusty that you can confuse her for a loaf of French bread.  Still, there is a fair share of exploding heads, so it's par for the course for an '80s sci fi outing.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I like Connery in just about anything he's in, but seeing him in sci-fi is rather weird really.