Prospect Blu-ray Review
Treasures of the Sierra Moon
Prospect Film ReviewComing out of nowhere with little more than a token limited cinema release, at least on this side of the pond, Prospect is nevertheless garnering some excellent word of mouth, enjoying much deserved positive reviews almost across the board and helping launch an indie streaming platform which appears to be trying to get a nugget of the Netflix/Amazon pie. With a budget of a mere $4 million, filmmakers Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl make their feature film debut here, expanding their own 2014 short film into this full length affair, and making a surprisingly confident first feature that is rightly drawing comparisons to Duncan Jones' outstanding debut, Moon.
The duo not only directed Prospect, but actually also wrote it, with Earl further handling the impressive cinematography, and Daniel L.K. Caldwell (presumably a relation to Chris) delivering a fabulous throwback score that imbues the piece with imposing dread and claustrophobic tension. It's enough to have landed them a sci-fi TV series gig at Amazon, which will hopefully not lead to the equivalent of Jones' Netflix foray with the distinctly flawed Mute.
The story has prospecting a father and daughter duo make one last drop to an alien moon before the shipping lane closes and they are left stranded forever. Their goal is a fabled cache of prized biological gems, but they're not alone in this toxic environment, and a clash with a drifter changes everything.
Embracing and indeed benefiting from its simplicity, Prospect reworks familiar western tropes - as you might suspect from the name - only transplanting the taut tale of hunting for 'gold', treachery, betrayal and the resultant consequences into a literally alien environment; giving fresh life to classic genre beats.
Prospect reworks familiar western tropes, only transplanting the taut tale into an alien environment; giving fresh life to classic genre beats
Although Pedro Pascal (Triple Frontier, Equalizer 2) is the biggest name in the piece, Mark Duplass's brother Jay does well as the father and relative newcomer Sophie Thatcher absolutely steals the show - making for an excellent teen lead who, for once, isn't utterly inept. Pascal brings one of his better rounded efforts to a shady role which is easily one of the best 'classic western' components, and the trio largely define the piece.
The filmmaking duo behind it use practical effects (dust superimposed on the finished film), practical costumes (reportedly extremely heavy helmets and space gear) and some fantastic bolt guns that further add to that gunslinger feel. It's amazing to think that this is largely just a 'run around in a forest with space helmets on' DIY affair, but with a considerable amount of love and attention to detail, the end result is utterly intoxicating, and as impressive as the realisation that the miniature practical models in Moon still look frequently far better - and far more effective - than even the latest cutting edge CG.
It feels positively 70s/80s in terms of sci-fi texture, and is all the better for it, nodding to everything from the Mad Max sequels to Silent Running, to Outland, The Martian, Alien and even Star Wars - as well as, of course, countless westerns or neo-westerns like Treasures of the Sierra Madre and even sci-fi westerns like Serenity - making good on the tributes it pays which only enrich the world-building scope.
Stylish and substantial, you wouldn't think that this spawned from just a short film (although many of the best directorial debuts do), seeing the stage-setting first act soon spin out of control, and the ensuing tension - from toxic environments, failing air filters and festering wounds, and that's if the human betrayals don't get you first - does not let up for the duration, and builds to a tremendous climax. It's likely one of the best films of the year that you may never have even heard of.
Prospect Blu-ray PictureSignature Entertainment bring Prospect to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a largely impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original limited theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Due to the filmmaking techniques employed, the feature has a very distinctive look, and frequently feels as if it could have been shot in the 70s/80s, but modern cameras still allow for strong focus on detail and clarity, little distracting softness, and no obvious damage. Skin textures are well resolved, and frequently dirty with the feel of future Old West prospectors, and detail is keenly resolved.
It's hardly going to be go-to demo material, but this presentation does a fine job with the limited budget sci-fi gem
The superimposed 'dust' gives the image a pervasive dream-like quality, and the skewed colour scheme and weathered Alien-like atmosphere suits similarly favours those 70s/80s greens, sickly yellows, and warm browns, adding to the retro period sci-fi feel. Black levels are strong enough, most notable in the final act, whilst sparks of 'bolt' fire provide some contrast. It's hardly going to be go-to demo material, but this presentation does a fine job with the limited budget sci-fi gem.
Prospect Blu-ray SoundThe audio track does a superb job with the material
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also does a superb job with the material, making the most of that aforementioned throwback score, complete with 80s undertones and LFE underpinning, and promoting keen reproduction of the dialogue across the frontal array and some nice effects work that helps convince as to the otherworldly setting - not just in space but also on the alien moon - even where the visuals are limited (most obvious examples include the drop ship during landing, which manages to be utterly immersive despite being shot entirely from the interior). Ships and weaponry are satisfyingly unusual and involving, and that score permeates the affair and seals a great little audio track.
Prospect Blu-ray ExtrasNothing
Prospect Blu-ray VerdictOne of the best films of the year that you may never have even heard of
Signature Entertainment brings Prospect to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with largely impressive video and audio, disappointingly but unsurprisingly devoid of extra features, rounding out a must-see movie which likely leaves this also a must-have purchase that comes highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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