Outland (1981 – DVD)

“If you’re looking for sterling character you’re in the wrong place”

A week ahead of the exciting release of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ prequel ‘Prometheus’ I cast around for a similar slice of sci-fi to slake my impatient thirst.  I found the perfect film in Peter Hyams’ ‘Outland’ which was greenlit and released in the wake of ‘Alien’ (To which it owes a stylistic debt), it was also filmed in the UK, it also featured a chilly score by Jerry Goldsmith, it also was about a crew of space miners, it also had a novelisation by Alan Dean Foster and it was also produced by The Ladd Company… who would next be involved with Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’.  All those things combined with the whole gothic horror feel of the movie leaves you with the fun idea that it could easily exist in the same imagined universe as ‘Alien’.

Sean Connery plays a newly appointed Marshal in a corrupt mining town on the moon of Io.  Something is causing the miners to commit suicide but finding out who knows about it and how high up the corruption goes could cost him everything.  The tone lurches from melancholia to violent action with superb performances from all.  The compositing effects show their age a little but nothing too distracting.  I had fun spotting the familiar faces from 1980s/1990s UK sitcoms and dramas although it does feature a strong performance from American Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon from The Wire).  I felt that the admittedly action packed climax was a slight let down to the creeping tension that had built up during the rest of the movie but ‘Outland’ is still a fine piece of 80s Sci-Fi.

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