Last year’s successful sci-fi films, “The Martian” and “Ex Machina,” continued to prove that audiences are interested in the genre. This is especially true when the films themselves are intriguing and have something to say. And although space is not a foreign concept to us, it continues to be a vast playground for further exploration, exploration we haven’t even begun to dream of. Writer and director Matt Osterman (“Ghost from the Machine”) sets out to study space exploration, albeit from the comfort of Earth, and succeeds in making “400 Days” a film which ultimately doesn’t provide any answers but keeps you riveted to the screen nonetheless.
Without a large budget, Osterman has consigned his cast–which rather impressively includes three stars of The CW’s shows, Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz from “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow,” Tom Cavanagh from “The Flash,” and Ben Feldman from AMC’s “Mad Men”–to be a part of a space program project that will have them underground in confined space for 400 days. If they’re successful, then they will be headed on a mission to Mars, something no space program has attempted to do yet with astronauts.
Everything seems to be going according to plan until, after only one month, the crew is met with a blaring alarm, slow-burning hallucinations and strange occurrences that aren’t enough to tip off that something’s wrong. They all continue to believe that it’s all part of the plan, even when they’ve lost contact with mission control. Things take a turn for the worse right around the time they near the final few days of their training program. Do they abandon ship?
It’s usually in January that films are lumped into two categories. They’re either a.) bad, or b.) leftovers from the holiday season. But, this is, thankfully, no longer the case anymore as there have been some films that are worth watching this month, and “400 Days” has some strong points, even though it leaves some things unanswered. It isn’t the strongest sci-fi film I’ve ever seen, but it has plenty going for it, including some mystery, some psychologically trippy scenes, and a well-rounded cast.
The film builds and builds, but halts at giving you the more obvious, exposition-riddled conclusion. It leaves you thinking instead. Was the entire training program a psychological test and not just to see if they could handle space? Why do all of that to begin with? For all intents and purposes, the plot is fairly original. There are no “saving the world” shenanigans running amok here and while the premise is to help the training crew settle in for exploring space, what they really end up exploring and battling are their own minds.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some significant things left out. “400 Days” relies on too much mystery, but not enough resolution to keep it going. And while the cast is small, not all the characters are as fully fleshed out as they could be. Most of the character tension lies with Routh and Lotz’s characters, but there isn’t enough of their interactions to truly heighten the tension between them. By the end, though, the creepy town factor that makes the film feel like somewhat of a sci-fi horror, lends itself to breaking the monotony of the rest of the film and really peaks interest. The end is definitely not for anyone who doesn’t like loose ends. The film is a solid enough venture, and although it could have explored the characters’ psyche more thoroughly, the fact that the ending is open-ended and leaves everything to the imagination serves the film well.