Saturday, 15 June 2013
At the time it was released, I can remember 'Outland' being described as 'High Noon' in space and, indeed, it shares several plot points / motifs with the famous Western, although all the stetsons have been replaced by baseball caps.
It's the future, and Sean Connery (speaking in a particularly deep voice for some reason. Lower gravity?) is a Space Marshall sent to keep order at a huge mining complex on the Saturnian moon Io (according to a helpful caption, it's pronounced Eye-Oh). He soon uncovers a friendish Corporate conspiracy to feed the workers amphetamines to massively increase their productivity. Which sounds okay, except that, after sustained use, the drug turns the user loopy and suicidal / murderous, which is a decidedly bad thing in a confined space. The powers that be assume that Connery will take a bung and just let them get on with it, but, as his wife and son have just left him, he's in a funny mood so decides to take a stand - completely alone - against the hired killers subsequently sent to silence him.
There are four main problems with the film: it's a bit slow; Connery doesn't put much into it; Connery's son has a 'gee whizz' American accent although both his parents are British, and, at the end, a marginal character is suddenly revealed as the main villain, which is a bit of a cheat. Other than that, it's rather good.
Firmly in the post-'Alien' mode of making the future look really scuzzy and drab rather than shiny and spacey, the sets are excellent, and enormous (there's a continous shot of Connery chasing a suspect around that seems to go on for about ten minutes). My favourite bit is the nightclub, where the miners unwind with the numerous prostitutes that live on the base. With its vaguely rave-y electronic music and spotlighted performers doing unspeakable things to each other, it's like Aya Napa in space and is extremely camp. When Connery walks in, everyone stops talking and moving to look at him like something out of, well, 'High Noon', and that's funy, too. I particularly like the fact that the music sounds like it was made in 1990, i.e. it's futuristic, but only a bit.
Occasionally violent (at least two heads explode), tolerably tense, 'Outland' is a pretty satisfying film, especially as it has a nice happy ending. Even Connery's toupee behaves itself. Shplendid.