Event Horizon

Rating 3½

Directed by Paul W S Anderson

Written by Philip Eisner

Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Sean Pertwee, Richard T Jones, Jack Noseworthy and Jason Isaacs

The crew of a rescue spacecraft called the Lewis and Clark is pulled off shore leave early and dispatched on a mission they are told nothing about. Joining them on the journey, much to the displeasure the ship’s captain, played by Laurence Fishburne, is a scientist called Dr William Weir (Sam Neill).

It is only when the ship nears the orbit of Neptune and the crew comes out of stasis that Weir reveals the truth. Signals have been picked up from a spacecraft known as the Event Horizon that seven years earlier was reported to have exploded and been destroyed. In fact, it was a secret experimental craft, fitted with gravity drive, designed to bend time, in effect creating artificial black holes to allow it to instantaneously jump to distant points in the universe. The mission of the rescue crew is to find the ship, board it to establish what happened, and bring it back to Earth.

I saw this film at the cinema when it was first released in August 1997. I have just watched it for a second time (October 2008). I recalled enjoying the film, but in fact it turned out to be much better than I had remembered. It does conform to tried and tested formulas; some might say tired and derivative. ‘Aliens’ is a very good comparison in this respect. That doesn’t deflect from the quality of the film. It is simply a guide to potential viewers as to what to expect. This is a big loud action sci-fi blockbuster - but it also builds up a suitably unsettling sense of something unknown and unknowable that makes it constantly watchable.

The cast is excellent and the characters, as stereotypical as they are, prove to be generally rather likeable, more so than is often the case for this kind of film, in my experience.

The British director Paul W S Anderson clearly knows how to make a film like this. His only other film I have seen is ‘Alien vs Predator’, which I enjoyed, because it never tried to be anything other than what it was, but he is possibly best known for the ‘Resident Evil’ films, whether as the director, writer or producer.

It is very loud, but there is not an over-abundance of testosterone, something that often afflicts films of this type. It is quite gruesome in parts, particularly in the second half of the film. I enjoyed it very much – and I find films of this type very hit or miss. As examples, I found ‘Sunshine’ insufferably pretentious, and ‘The Island’ virtually unwatchable on the second time of viewing.

Generally speaking, the film was not well received by critics. 27 reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes result in a 22% rotten rating. One critic likened it to a bad Nine Inch Nails music video, which I think is rather harsh. It had a domestic box office gross a little under $27 million, which I would imagine fell a long way short of the production budget.

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