THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN
Michael Crichton’s 1969 novel imagines the effects of a devastating alien microorganism crash landing on earth, and follows the efforts of a crack team of scientists to combat the threat. Robert Wise’s faithful movie adaption came a few years later, and the ponderous film provided the backbone to the 2008 two part mini-series of the same name. It’s now been released on DVD again, only this time packing a handful of extras.
Backed by powerhouse producers Tony and Ridley Scott, writer Robert Schenkkan upped the political espionage, bringing the story up to date, juggling America’s paranoia by connecting events with the Middle East crisis and the war on terror. A more interesting reading is the ecological effect of big corporations. In whatever case, both take a backseat to the soppy love story straddling the rest.
The captioned character names which fleetingly set the ball rolling give it a documentary aesthetic, which might have made for a more focussed effort had director Mikael Salomon gone down the vérité route. Salomon worked as cinematographer on James Cameron’s undersea sci-fi epic The Abyss, and it shows. There’s a distinct functionality to the shots, a stiffness typical of Cameron’s latter work, with only the occasional arty flourish giving away any kind of style or flavour.
It boasts a pretty decent ensemble cast, with Benjamin Bratt as Dr. Jeremy Stone, the central figure around which the narrative shifts and gravitates. His charisma and presence are captivating, and he gives a good go of heading up the scientific team charged with fighting the spreading infection. Barry Flatman brings his timbre and game face in a role straight out of All the President’s Men. Viola Davis probably gives the best performance as Dr. Charlene Barton, a dynamic and believable portrayal of a woman struggling with a commitment to duty while trying to keep her family safe. On the other side of things, Perception’s Eric McCormack is the scene-stealing investigative journalist Jack Nash, a paranoid mischief maker with a coke habit.
It feels dated, even 7 years later, particularly the laughable visual effects. With The Strain and Helix as stiff modern day competition, The Andromeda Strain falls flat. It’s a fascinating central concept, proving Crichton’s enduring intellect and medical know how. Smart, stylish and very ambitious, it’s a show too bogged-down with its science-for-dummies script, schlocky monster movie effects and pitiful plot-turns to be anything other than a so-so mini-series from TV’s yesterday.
Special Features: Audio commentaries / Making of / Visual effects breakdown / Photo and design gallery
INFO: THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MIKAEL SALOMON / SCREENPLAY: ROBERT SCHENKKAN, MICHAEL CRICHTON / STARRING: BENJAMIN BRATT, BARRY FLATMAN, CHRISTA MILLER, VIOLA DAVIS, ERIC MCCORMACK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW