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Approaching the Unknown (2016) Review

Space travel can be very, very, very slow…

by Martin Hafer

Sci-fi movies are highly entertaining and much of it is because they are not realistic. After all, in many of these films, folks just casually go from one planet to another and it seems to take minutes...or at most, hours. But the reality is that space travel, at least as we know it, is very, very slow and space is far, far bigger than we think. And, if films were that realistic they'd also be incredibly tedious...and that's much of the problem with "Approaching the Unknown". It's a film about a mission to Mars...and instead of doing the impossible and making it seem possible (such as in "The Martian"), it's more realistic...and, as a result, glacially slow. So, while I am amazed that writer/director Mark Elijah Rosenberg was able to achieve what he did with his first film, it’s just too realistic for most viewers who are looking for fun when they watch a film.

Approaching the Unknown
Directed by Mark Elijah Rosenberg
Cast Mark Strong, Luke Wilson, Sanaa Lathan
Release Date 3 June 2016
Martin's Grade: C-

When the story begins, Captain William Stanforth (Mark Strong) is being sent on the first manned mission to Mars...and it's a one-way trip. Others will follow, but inexplicably he is the only crew member (this seems very odd not to have more crew members). Over the course of the trip, he slowly comes to realize two things...that his system for converting soil to water ISN'T working (which will make colonizing the planet impossible or at least very difficult) and he's also suffering from the effects of isolation. It culminates with him ultimately taking the ship off autopilot and setting out on his own….and to what end, you’ll have to find out if you watch this picture.

Aside from some tiny portions of the movie, Mark Strong IS the entire film...and watching him and listening to him talk to himself becomes tedious. The music, while fitting, only made this sense of dullness more noticeable. I had serious trouble staying awake as I watched and think it's not the sort of film with widespread appeal. It's well made for what it is...but realism and believability are, in this case, not major plusses for the movie. The film has just debuted on Netflix this month.

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