400 DAYS

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

A mismatched bunch of would-be rookie astronauts are holed-up in an underground bunker facility to test their ability to endure potentially agonising periods of deep space-travel isolation. Locked away for 400 days (hence the title) the fractured foursome soon find their psychological and physiological conditions deteriorating – and then there’s the little matter of the thunderous and ominous rumbling of the ground around them and their sudden loss of communication with the outside world.

Some movies wear their tiny budgets on their sleeves like badges of honour. “Look what we can do with almost no money,” they seem to cry as they get on with the tricky business of telling an interesting story with the sort of cash which probably wouldn’t cover Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible fresh sock budget. Others – like 400 Days –can’t help highlighting the aching penury of their production by struggling to tell a halfway decent story. That, in essence, is what we have here; a movie which just about keeps its head above the waterline  until about the halfway mark when it sinks like a stone as it loses track of what it’s trying to do and the story it’s trying to tell.

Our heroes are stereotypes one and all; Brandon Routh is the thoughtful-but-manly Captain Theo, coping with breaking up with the group’s medic Emily McTier (Lotz), Ben Feldman is the sensitive, nervy Bug and Dane Cook is the brash, punchy Cole. They’re all cooped up in a painfully-cramped simulation environment – here’s that low budget on show again – which seems to consist of one kitchen area, a medical bay with one bed and a few cramped crewrooms. The gym contains one exercise bike stuck in the corner of a corridor. Suggestions that the film is aiming for a Spartan, minimalist approach are shafted by other painfully underfunded sequences; a press conference before the quartet enter their underground tomb involves a handful  of extras sitting on chairs in a field.

But the first half of the film just about keeps up our interest as we get to know the dramatis personae  and get to grips with their relationships and their clichéd backstories. Their psychological collapse is well-handled and the mystery of what’s happened in the outside world is initially intriguing until the group decide to venture out of their sanctuary to find a windswept, barren environment. Turns out the moon has been hit by an asteroid and the world is enveloped by a swirling dust cloud. Then they meet some survivors in a nearby shanty town and here the film loses its way completely as it wanders towards a frustratingly ambiguous ending which asks a lot of questions but never comes close to offering any answers.

Slight and cheap-looking, 400 Days might have passed muster as an episode of a sci-fi anthology series (if such a thing still existed) but it’s thin gruel for a cinema audience and barely worth the 90 minutes invested in watching it, let alone the 400 days across which it purports to tell its wholly-unmemorable story.


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