As a follow-up to my Paul W.S. Anderson article, I ventured out to see Pandorum, the latest film to be released under his Impact Pictures shingle. Anderson is the producer with his long-time partner Jeremy Bolt, with the directorial duties handed off to German newcomer Christian Alvart. In many ways the film plays like a remake of Event Horizon, as a skeleton crew investigates mysterious doings on an abandoned spacecraft. With a demonstrably smaller budget, Pandorum is more cloistered, far darker, and quite possibly superior to its model.
Offering the requisite suffocating spaces of an Anderson production, it opens with Cpl. Bower (Ben Foster) waking up in a locked hyper-sleep chamber (see above). He's seen in an overhead close-up, his head peering skyward as he frantically tears out the tubes joining him to the wall. It is the first of a series of cramped spaces that Bower must navigate while suffering from amnesia. Alvart utlilizes the overhead close-up later on in an intestinal, tube-filled air vent, emphasizing the repetitive, almost circular nature of his progress. Every time Bower successfully navigates a space, there is another, more elaborately daunting one to take its place. It's a film of frustrated progress, where Bower's goals keep narrowing along with the setting.
Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid, with a fine beard) keeps him grounded at the start. Waking up hours after Bower, he takes the role of communicator, manning the control room to direct Bower's path through the bowels of the ship to the reactor which has to be reset. With his holographic maps and comm devices, Payton is the anchor to a concrete reality, one in which Bower is slowly losing grip on as he goes further down the (mutated) rabbit hole.
Both men suffer from memory loss, and the script doles out their back-story in a slow expository drip. As their minds return to them, the space madness sets in (Pandorum!), their pasts not something either man wish to revisit. It's a clever structure, and Alvart keeps the ooze flowing in between revelations. Foster and Quaid offer up solid turns of wounded nobility and crusty professionalism, respectively, until the nihilistic plot twists threaten to turn their rugged determinism into hysterical self-destruction. It's a sleek, nasty, and highly effective piece of work.