400 Days uses a mission-simulation premise as part of an attempt to get away with making a space movie with astonishingly low production value. The vaguely named “ship” and paraphernalia aboard doesn’t even convince as the accoutrements of a simulated mission, and the frequent references to the “fake” spacesuits serve to emphasise rather than explain their cheapness.
Writer-director Matt Osterman lays potentially interesting psychological groundwork that, together with the plot, suggests an attempt to contribute to the great tradition of enthralling psychodrama-infused space epics that includes 2001: A Space Odyssey, the masterful Moon, and last year’s The Martian. While The Martian is a mediocre entry into this lucrative genre, 400 Days is an utterly incomplete idea desperately assembled.
Despite explicit intertitles the passage of time isn’t easy to gauge or believe. Dramatic pacing is almost non-existent, with more than 300 days of the 400-day mission passing before the halfway point. After this, backstory and characterisation are abandoned in favour of horror movie imagery, silly jump scares, and a litany of mismatched genre tropes.
The isolated setting and growing sense of mystery make 400 Days comparable to 10 Cloverfield Lane. While Osterman builds menace at least as effectively as the Cloverfield spinoff, developing the sinister suggestions of well-selected archive footage used in the opening credits, acting quality leaves a lot to be desired. Brandon Routh can be as wooden as his hair is stupidly perfect, and Tom Cavanagh’s villainous Zell is hopelessly affected.
The pace improves as the plot becomes more ridiculous, yet Osterman plunges his audience into a rabbit hole of uncertainty that he can’t recover from. The film fails, Coppola-like, to reach a satisfying conclusion, and is doomed to fade out to cries of frustration.
CAST: Brandon Routh, Dane Cook, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman
DIRECTOR: Matt Osterman
WRITER: Matt Osterman
SYNOPSIS: With their four-hundred-day mission simulation nearing completion, four astronauts begin to feel that something is amiss.