DUST (under Gunpowder and Sky)
Written & directed by: Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass, Sheila Vand, Andre Royo & Anwan Glover
Debuting in the UK at the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival in April, Prospect is a new indie sci-fi film starring Pedro Pascal and Sophie Thatcher. We’re huge fans of sci-fi here, it’s such a vastly expansive genre in which pretty much any idea can explored, so to see an original concept starring the soon to be lead of The Mandalorian series really intrigued us! Rather than going all out on a futuristic world filled with special effects, Prospect focuses on character development and world building, opting for more of a mix of coming of age thriller/western set in space.
Written and directed by Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, Prospect centres on young Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her interplanetary prospector father, Damon (Jay Duplass). The two travel from planet to planet harvesting a valuable organic resource to pay off their lease and repatch their barely held together vessel. In the hopes of finally leaving their prospecting life behind and returning to Earth, the two arrange to team up with a group of mercenaries to mine a large deposit of the stone on a dangerous moon, poisonous to man. But their fortunes change for the worst when their craft becomes damaged while attempting to land and then stumble upon shady scavengers Ezra (Pedro Pascal) and his partner (Luke Pitzrick).
The slow burn straightforward plot is intriguing enough, especially when Cee and Ezra begin to explore and encounter new life on the moon, but unfortunately starts to feel somewhat thin towards the final act. The film features an alien planet, new life forms and new technologies, with reference to a much wider universe (the ‘fringe’), but doesn’t really explain or delve into any of it which is a shame, favouring a much more grounded approach to the genre.
Performance wise, Pedro Pascal is as charismatic as his turn in Game of Thrones as Oberyn Martell, although this time round he feels like he’s stepped right out of a Western. Earl and Caldwell clearly had a hell of a lot of fun writing this character, with his eccentric Southern dialogue and constant monologuing. You genuinely do warm to Ezra throughout the film, as the dynamics between him and Cee really do shift and the two depend upon each other to navigate this alien world. But the film is Cee’s tale and Sophie Thatcher does extremely well in her first feature-film debut, perfectly bringing to life this coming of age tale in which a young woman is forced to grow up and adapt to a hostile environment to survive.
The film’s real strength however lies in the wonderful cinematography, hazy aesthetics and ‘lived in’ set design and costumes. There’s a real Annihilation vibe in the thick and lush forest setting, entrenched with spores and new alien species. Earl and Caldwell’s team reportedly crafted all of the film’s ships, weapons and costumes bringing to life a futuristic world that feels impressively grounded and real.
Overall Prospect features impressive direction, fantastic performances and a unique visual flair from such a small budget, but unfortunately it falls somewhat short story wise, suffering from a disappointing third act. Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell are clearly ones to watch though, and I can’t wait to see their next sci-fi outing!