It’s a not-so-distant future and a remote nuclear facility has gone offline. This new kind of nuclear station was powered by a special engine built to repair the damage caused by the previous plants on that site failing catastrophically, and turns the resulting radiation into clean power. Now some years after, a new dawn of safe energy has come about. So it’s hugely concerning that this plant is potentially in trouble too, particularly as it should be infallible. Abby (Habel), a recently promoted safety engineer, gets herself sent out to the facility deep in the desert to find out what has happened and ensure everything gets safely back online.
Upon arrival the place is far from the utopian ideal presented in company promotional videos and is falling into disrepair. It has only two employees, Robinson (Monaghan) and Dr Zek (Sizemore). Abby’s not exactly welcomed by the nervous and jittery Robinson. There’s no sign of Zek and Robinson suggests the doctor is doing some things he shouldn’t be, including wandering outside in the contaminated land surrounding the facility where he shouldn't go. Things quickly get worse when Abby finds out the problems with the station are due to sabotage. It could be Robinson who is dangerous or Zek, or perhaps it’s both of them.
So what we have here is a done-on-the-cheap SyFy movie. The central trio make up most of the cast and the main focus is on Abby and who she can trust. Blowing most of the effects budget in the first 10 minutes to try and convince you this is going to be interesting, it briefly echoes things like the series Continuum. It’s a shame that much of what follows is people walking through bland corridors slowly making their way towards an underwhelming conclusion. What could have made a relatively interesting short film with some environmental themes if done differently is dragged out to the point where you cannot possibly care as all is revealed to be a damp squib.
Monaghan has the most showy role as the weird, possibly creepy Robinson. He’s the type of guy who likes walking in on people in the shower and whilst he’s having fun, it’s too broad a caricature. Sizemore has much less screen time but at least reminds us that outside of his well-documented personal issues he remains a fine, charismatic actor. The bulk of the film rests on Habel’s shoulders and she is the best thing about Atomica by far, doing her best with her character’s non-interesting back story and underwritten role. The biggest mystery behind this so-called science fiction thriller is why anyone bothered making it at all.
ATOMICA / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: DAGEN MERRILL / SCREENPLAY: KEVIN BURKE, FEDERICO FERNANDEZ-ARMESTO, ADAM GYNGELL / STARRING: SARAH HABEL, DOMINIC MONAGHAN, TOM SIZEMORE / RELEASE DATE: 17TH MARCH (CINEMA) OR 21ST MARCH (VOD) (US); UK RELEASE DATE TBA