DIRECTOR: ZEEK EARL, CHRIS CALDWELL | SCREENPLAY: ZEEK EARL, CHRIS CALDWELL | STARRING: PEDRO PASCAL, SOPHIE THATCHER, JAY DUPLASS | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (DVD, VOD)
The plot for writer/directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s sci-fi actioner is pretty basic: “A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. Forced to contend not only with the forest's other ruthless inhabitants but with her own father's judgment, the girl must carve her own path to escape.” However, the film ends up seeming like a glimpse into a Wild West in outer space, with a sense of lived-in realism. It's due just as much to stars Pedro Pascal as Ezra and Sophie Thatcher as Cee, whose performances ground Prospect, as it is to the whip-smart script from Caldwell and Earl and their astonishingly convincing crew of set designers.
The lead performances from Pascal and Thatcher are impressive. Pascal's work in Game of Thrones and Narcos has brought him to wide attention, but Prospect is Thatcher's first-ever feature film. She knocks it out of the park by making her character, Cee, simultaneously youthful and yet wordly beyond her years. While the story doesn't offer much which hasn't been explored in various claim-jumping Westerns over the decades, the ornate, near-Shakespearean dialogue from the mouth of Pascal's Ezra offers up something other than the usual techno-babble dialogue so beloved of interstellar features.
As the plot progresses, and Cee attempts to find her way off the planet on which she is possibly stranded, the tension ratchets up considerably, and there are – as in every good Wild West scenario – some intense shoot-outs and confrontations. The supporting characters are all very good, as well, with an exceptionally-focused turn by Andre Royo as the head of a clan looking to expand its numbers. In a low-budget film like this, the performances are so integral to keeping the viewer in the picture, and just one flat reading can remove them entirely, so it’s wonderful to see even the most superfluous of characters portrayed with realism and nuance.
The otherworldly aspect of the film is very important, it being sci-fi and all, but the ability of the designers to create a practical, lived-in world makes Prospect a film to which the viewer can connect because, like Alien, it's a world which feels used. Things look used, but not cheap, and thanks to the on-location shooting in Washington State's Hoh Rainforest, the film looks like it takes place in another world entirely, not just over 100 miles from Seattle. It's a fantastical experience, getting lost in Prospect's world.