“Prospect,” directed by Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, is an excitingly well-made independent sci-fi film with practical effects and good characters. It stars Sophie Thatcher as a teenager who arrives on an alien moon with her fallible father (Jay Duplass) to mine a valuable gem called aurelac for a team of mercenaries. It’s a high-risk job from the beginning, because they have limited time before the last freighter comes by again and picks them back up. When her dad is attacked by two lone mercenaries, he escalates the situation by attempting to rob them instead of just escaping—and suddenly she is left alone on a hostile planet with a damaged ship-pod and one surviving mercenary, Ezra (Pedro Pascal).
The girl, whose name we aren’t told until near the end, is resourceful and scrappy, but realistically out of her element and terrified. Thatcher’s face makes it clear that she is always thinking, trying to make the smart decision, trying not to end up dead. She makes a reluctant deal with Ezra to continue on to meet the mercenaries her father was working with, only to encounter a strange cult-type group of people who live on the moon. They offer a disgusting trade that, combined with Ezra’s untrustworthiness, puts her on the run again. And what will happen when she arrives at the mine anyway, without her dad’s skills to extract the gems?
Air and time are constantly running out, yet the movie gives us time to understand the girl and Ezra; the latter is a character we’ve seen before, but Pascal portrays his mix of ruthlessness and humor very well, especially with his overly flowery dialogue. It pays off with the subtle connection he and the girl make when she has a brief moment to gush about reading. It’s nice that this is not overdone and they don’t become highly unrealistic best friends or a father-daughter pair.
The woods of the moon are lovely and eerie with their floating spores and the aurelac mining itself is interestingly otherworldly. The dialogue is well-done all around and sets up background details very quickly in the beginning without worrying about whether or not we understand everything, which is key for good science fiction. Highly recommended. (I don’t recommend watching the trailer though, because it gives too much away.)
Image via movie website