Following a two week break after a 31 reviews in as many days for October, I am now back and raring to go…..well I say raring, what I actually mean is that I didn’t intend this to be a two week break and now feel obligated to review a film.
So based on that I have gone with a film that I found during my month long reviews, a science-fiction thriller called “400 Days”. Looking at the cast I am relatively excited as Brandon Routh was one of the best parts about the excellent “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”, Ben Feldman is a highly enjoyable actor in smaller movies, and I’ve personally never had a problem with Dane Cook, seemingly one of the few who will openly admit that on the internet.
400 Days also reminds me a lot of Sam Rockwell’s “Moon” from the trailer, and if it’s anything as good as that then I will surely enjoy it. Then again, even if it’s bad it won’t be as bad as half of the crap I watched during October.
With plans to make missions to Mars a regular thing and interstellar travel affordable to the average folk, four wannabe astronauts agree to a social experiment to see the affects of 400 days of isolation, completion of which would put them on the next mission. It has been Cole Dvorak’s (Cook) dream since he was a child, whereas Bug Kieslowski (Feldman) is just as excited, however, Theo Cooper (Routh) and Emily McTier (Lotz) aren’t thrilled about spending the next 400 days together after a recent break up.
The experiment starts and all goes fine for the first few hundred days, but then various members of the group start suffering hallucinations, when suddenly they all report seeing a man that has seemingly broken into the complex. The man running the experiment no longer responds to communication requests and the group argue about what to do. Theo believes that they should leave the experiment to investigate what is happening, even though there are less than two weeks to go, Dvorak strongly objects as he knows that doing so will end any hopes that any of them had of ever going into space, but he eventually yields.
After struggling to get out, the group eventually emerges into a pitch black environment with seemingly no buildings or plant life, and a strange dust covering the ground. After walking around for several hours they eventually find a small town with a few people there, including Zell (Cavanagh), a man who won’t give a straight answer to any questions, and the group starts debating whether something genuinely happened whilst they were underground, or whether it is simply part of the experiment.
Anything like Moon?
In some ways it is very similar to “Moon”, it’s got relatively similar plot points in terms of a character going crazy, but the problem with 400 Days isn’t that it’s like another film in some aspects, it’s that it’s trying to be too many things at once and by doing so ends up being so convoluted that I’m not even entirely sure what genre to put it in.
Throughout a runtime of 90 minutes, 400 Days regularly changes the type of film it’s trying to be, starting off as a sci-fi movie, then turning into a thriller, then a horror and finally a post-apocalytic style movie, but the problem is that none of them are done particularly well and once the group leaves the pod for the first time, something is lost and the film becomes far, far, far less interesting.
So based on this I’m going to do something that I have never done before, and that’s a section that I like to call (and is shamelessly stolen from a popular Youtube channel)…..
How it should have ended!
Please note that I will go back to the main review after this section, and all of the below is simply how I would have written the ending to make the film not only better (in my opinion), but also stick to the theme of paranoia that the film wanted you to believe from the trailer.
So to do this I really should start with how the film actually ends. (spoiler alert). At around the half way point all of the characters escape the hatch after a man breaks in, they don’t recognise the area that they emerge from and walk for hours before finding a small town. In the town are a small group of very strange people, led by Zell (Cavanagh). The group notes that the town wasn’t there before they went in the pod and it appears that some cataclysmic event has taken place, but no-one will give them a straight answer. the film ends with Dvorak and Bug disappearing in the small town that the group discovers, with Theo and Emily the only confirmed survivors and the clock for the 400 days finally ends and an automated message played over the tannoy to congratulate them, and they look up to the previously sealed hatch and hear it opening. The film ends there.
For me personally I wouldn’t have had them leave the structure at all. I’d have had them growing increasingly restless as they approach the 400 day mark. The group survives several paranoia-driven attacks on each other before finally making it to the end and they’re all sat there as the countdown reaches 0…..and then nothing. Hours and then days pass as nothing happens, they try to force open the hatch but it won’t open.
Dvorak, who was already in a questionable mental state at this point, starts growing crazier and crazier before, a month after they were supposed to be released, he finally snaps and attempts to kill the other three members of the crew. He succeeds in killing Theo and Emily, coming down to just him and Bug. Bug runs and hides and the remainder of the film is spent like a cat-and-mouse hunt as Dvorak searches for him. Ben eventually gets the better of Dvorak and just seconds after he delivers the fatal blow, the hatch door opens. The recruiter descends into the hatch and reveals that the extra time in there was a symbol that even the best laid plans can sometimes go wrong, and they wished to see how the group would react, and whilst everyone else being dead wasn’t ideal, it shows that Bug had what was needed to survive in extreme situations. The film ends with him going into space on a real mission.
Back to the review….
So yeah, that’s how I would have had the film go, but the problem, as I mentioned much earlier in the review, is that the film regularly changes pace and genre, almost to the point where it no longer has any genre. It’s not particularly scary so can’t be a horror film, it’s no longer particularly science fiction, it’s not a thriller as nothing’s really happening that justifies calling it that, and the only genre I can even slightly put it into by the end would be mystery….but the problem with that is there isn’t even that much mystery. I’m only putting it in the “science fiction” category for this site as it is the closest match that I can get to from the entire film.
The characters are enjoyable watch, especially Cook’s Dvorak, easily the most developed character in the film. Dvorak’s ambition and drive to be a real astronaut clouds his judgement over what should be done. Cook’s performance is a far cry from anything that he has done in the past, so those that are expecting him to be the comic relief in a tense film, think otherwise.
Routh does a decent job, as does Feldman, but Lotz doesn’t really do anything for me on any level. She is just bland, never truly looks concerned and you don’t really care about her as a character, and that’s never a good thing. I didn’t become emotionally invested with her and Routh’s characters getting over a breakup as the two don’t really share a chemistry and only level.
There isn’t really that much of a soundtrack, it’s seemingly more just a collection of noises just randomly put together, and that’s probably one of the reasons that there seems to never really be an true tension, and that doesn’t help with the struggles of find it’s genre.
For the first 45 or so minutes I felt really engaged with 400 Days, but then it all starts taking a downward turn and becomes overly complicated, almost to the point where you’re no longer interested in what’s going on.
This is also another case of a trailer not giving you the full idea of what a film is truly like, something that is becoming an increasing trend in movies these days.
Whilst not an awful film, 400 Days never really falls into being anything more than average.