Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s Prospect is a sci-fi survival film that blends in elements of traditional westerns from the frontiers of an inhospitable land. I don’t immediately love westerns, but I can’t seem to get enough of movies that are secretly westerns (See: Every Tarantino Movie Ever). The unique genre-bender stars Jay Duplass (Manson Family Vacation, Transparent), Sophie Thatcher (TV’s The Exorcist), and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Narcos) playing a kind-hearted villain whose drawl is worse than his bite.
Prospect won the Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and was adapted from Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s short film of the same name which held it’s world premiere at SXSW 2014. The film recently celebrated its Toronto premiere at the 2018 Toronto After Dark Film Festival ahead of the nation wide release November 9th, 2018.
Prospect follows Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her prospecting father Damon (Jay Duplass), looking for “The Big Score” on a remote, uninhabitable moon. The pair are drifters, with no place to call home, forever drifting from one job to the next, hunting for a deposit of ‘Oarlak’ (See: Space Gold) big enough to retire from prospecting for good. Cee is homesick for anywhere she can hang a hat but popppa is a rollin’ stone and his reckless nature has made greed the only filter through which all his decisions are made. Cee knows the trip down is dangerous and could very likely leave them stranded on the hostile moon but dad is in charge, and after a few pills to help straighten him out, down they go.
Entry into the moon’s atmosphere is rough but it’s only the beginning of their problems. They soon realize that the toxic forest is the least of their concerns when they encounter unsavory natives, cold-blooded mercenaries, and equally desperate bandits. Cee soon finds herself alone with a man named Ezra (Pedro Pascal). Like her father, he too has come to this uninhabitable land seeking fortune. Ezra is an eloquent antagonist, resolute in his determination, and as chaotically neutral as they come. Cee has very little reason to trust him, but circumstance has brought them together and if she is to ever eject button back to the ship, they will have to work together.
Prospect is a bare bones tale that doesn’t rely on visual effects to carry it’s story. It’s an exercise in minimalism and exists in a world bigger than the one we see. Yes, we’re far enough into the future that even freelancers looking to make a quick buck for themselves can afford to travel through space, but we don’t get hung up on technology or current affairs. The setting is unique and important to the story, sure, but the wants and needs of our characters are universal and that’s what makes us give a damn about these people. Our imaginations can grasp the concept of a laser gun or fancy gems found in the bellies of space grubs, but longing and hunger are emotions that bleed through any scenario and strike deep.
Pedro Pascal’s performance as the space bandito Ezra is built around his silver-tongued dialogue and really helps drive home that classic western feel. His presence is a gamble because though he lives his life by a strict code, it is a code all his own. He remains unpredictable but in no short order, he becomes the lesser of many evils. Toronto After Dark 2017 helped to remind me that sci-fi is where ambitions are put on full display with Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s The Endless and this years is no different. Prospect is one of the most interesting and unique stories this side of the cosmos.
Prospect is the first feature film distributed by Gunpowder & Sky’s new sci-fi label Dust. The movie hits theaters November 2nd and you can purchase tickets HERE. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Toronto After Dark coverage here!