2015 | Australia | Directed by Shane Abbess
Logline: During a daring search and rescue mission an elite team and the lone survivor find themselves at the mercy of something far more dangerous than they anticipated.
It’s all well and good taking inspiration from other movies, it’s the fuel that feeds the creative oomph, and it’s just as fine and dandy to put those influences up on the screen. The cinephiles nod and smile, the fans hoot and cheer, the critics take note, and the end result is a movie that oozes cult appeal and smacks of movie saavy. But sometimes a movie can be so weighed down by its own muse that the audience becomes distracted from what is original, by what has been seen time and time before.
Shane Abbess has certainly created an impressive production with Infini, his sophomore feature. The first was a low-budget dark fantasy flick, Gabriel, which garnered him a lot of attention, most notably for the film’s striking visual style. Abbess certainly has a talent for action set pieces and creating a palpable atmosphere. Infini makes more than a passing nod to the most obvious comparison, Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien.
Not only does Infini have a very similar production design, right down to mimicking the same computer interface a la “Mother”*, but also it captures a similar sense of grimy claustrophobia, and plays on the same kind of cat-and-mouse tension, while Event Horizon, another hell-in-a-tight-space scenario, and the extreme paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing echo and resonate throughout Infini’s look and feel.
Less obvious, but more interestingly, Infini’s storyline involves a sentient planetoid and the immediate consequences of humans, both physically and mentally being affected by their close proximity. This bears comparison to the ponderousness of Solaris, one of the great science fiction movies (and novels) of the past fifty years. Unlike Solaris, which deals with the manifestation of characters’ memories, Infini plays on the extraction of the characters’ base emotions of rage and hatred, and the subsequent violence it sparks.
Indeed, Infini is a study of identity and self-control, and the violence that tears humanity apart. There are some powerful moments, but it’s a shame that none of the characters are that likeable, or that interesting, making the nearly two hours holed up with them shouting and screaming at each other in a dark, cramped mining facility a bit of an endurance test. Not sure about the ending either, which felt tagged on.
The cast is strong though, the performances solid, and nice to see a bunch of mostly lesser known, charismatic Australian actors delivering the goods. Daniel MacPherson (yet another ex-Neighbour), as the long-suffering lone survivor Whit Carmichael, is the standout, but also of note, Luke Ford as one of the search and rescue team, and Andy Rodoreda as West Coast Division leader Sefton Norick.
There are not that many Australian science fiction movies of this calibre, and Infini kicks some visceral arse. Okay, so maybe not into the beyond, or even the middle of next week, but definitely hard into tomorrow.
* In 1979 when Alien came out the MS-DOS-style interface of the Nostromo’s ship computer, Mother, had a clunky-cool aesthetic. But for a science fiction movie made thirty-five years later and set two hundred years in the future involving the super-advanced technology of “slipstreaming” (or, teleportation a la The Tomorrow People or Star Trek) Infini’s concept of a computer interface that looks exactly like the one used in Alien is, at best, contrived, and at worst, risible. Of course, Shane Abbess might've intentionally set his movie in the same universe as Alien, in which case, my gripe is null and void.