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.
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.
400 DAYS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MATT OSTERMAN / STARRING: BRANDON ROUTH, DANE COOK, CAITY LOTZ, BEN FELDMAN, GRANT BOWLER / DATE OF RELEASE: OUT NOW