The debut film from writing and directing team Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl, sci-fi Western Prospect draws influences from a wide range of science fiction, blending them into a surprisingly cohesive and deeply atmospheric whole. Trekking through the ominously serene undergrowth is reminiscent of Annihilation, whilst the grounded technology and sense of isolation recalls the likes of Moon and Alien. Like Monsters, the strong worldbuilding is used as a vehicle to explore human relationships, in this case the reliance, mistrust and forgiveness between greedy prospectors harvesting resources on the fringe of human expansion into space. Pedro Pascal’s turn as the eloquent and mercurial Ezra, channelling Firefly‘s Mal Reynolds, foreshadowed his role as The Mandalorian in the biggest sci-fi Western franchise around. In her first feature, Sophie Thatcher is effective if less consistent as the determined Cee. It may be narrow in scope, but Prospect shows that an absorbing step into a believable future requires thoughtful filmmaking rather than vast budgets.
“Been in kind of a dark, existential place, to tell you the truth and then… I met your mom.”
The marketing and casting of Cyrus created expectations for an offbeat comedy, confusing audiences who received more of an unsettling indie flick, written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill both offer surprising performances, Hill through understated creepiness, whilst Reilly flexes his nuanced acting abilities in role of an affable, neurotic and world-weary man with hints of the star turn he would take a few years later in Wreck-It Ralph. Marisa Tomei deftly makes the unusual central relationships believable. The film flounders structurally, taking over an hour of its 91-minute running time to set up the conflict between John and Cyrus, leaving its final act feeling hurried and lacking in any real depth. On the other hand, the time devoted to John and Molly’s relationship ensures that the audience remains invested in its success. Cyrus flirts with a darker tone but never really commits, resulting in a pleasantly unusual film without the edge it might have had in different hands.