One of the more pleasant surprises of this SXSW was a little intimate grounded sci-fi film called PROSPECT. It's a simple story told exceptionally well. We follow a teenage girl and her father trying to strike it rich prospecting for gems on an alien planet before their ship home leaves them stranded.
Everything that can go wrong goes wrong (of course), from faulty equipment to run-ins with murderous plunderers, all while the window for getting off the planet shrinks.
Prospect is one of those smaller movies with a big scale that really lets you soak up the production design and cinematography in lieu of big action sequences or constant VFX landscape shots. The movie I kept hearing it compared to around the fest was Moon. It's a radically different kind of movie, but in terms of tone that's not too far off.
Writer/Directors Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl put the plot focus squarely on character as they slowly dial up the tension on our heroine, who is portrayed as smart and good-hearted, but not perfect. Not every plan of hers works out, she's not immune to the pressures and the seeming hopelessness of her situation.
Sophie Thatcher plays Cee and acts her ass off, through a domed space helmet for, like, 90% of her screen time. She's put in a rather interesting situation that pairs her with someone she's not a fan of, to put it bluntly, and has to depend on a devious, murderous rogue named Ezra, played by Game of Thrones and Kingsman 2's Pedro Pascal.
Ezra's the kind of dude that would sell his mother if it got him the edge in a tough situation. He's not to be trusted and Cee knows this, but doesn't have much of a choice. On a planet where the environment is deadly and desperate mercs comb the alien landscape sometimes strange bedfellows have to be made and you can't get much stranger than these two.
That's where the real kernel of greatness is in this movie. Pairing two people who don't trust each other together in a hostile environment and forcing them to depend on each other to survive is a great dynamic and both actors knock it out of the park.
The pacing is a little... deliberate and I'm sure the more OCD among us will have a little trouble hanging with the movie, but I was riveted the whole way through because there was always something to hold my attention, whether it was marveling at the costumes and production design or being sucked into the character dynamics unfolding as the clock ticked down.
Caldwell and Earl show a talent for worldbuilding here. They don't dump a ton of exposition on you, instead letting the characters' actions tell you everything you need to know about the reality of this sci-fi future. They sprinkle just enough otherworldly weirdness into the visuals that it doesn't look like they just slapped a yellow filter on the camera and went into the woods to shoot, somehow striking that balance of recognizable and absolutely alien that gives us a grounded reality that doesn't look like some Sy-Fy Channel reject.
I very much dug this one. Not sure when everybody will have a chance to see it, but it's too good to fall through the cracks. When it comes time make sure to check it out.