400 Days from SyFy Films: Twin Cities Film Fest Insider Series

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Opening this weekend as part of the Twin Cities Film Fest Insider Series will be 400 Days directed by local resident Matt Osterman.

The film is released by SyFy Films and will have both theatrical releases as well as direct to video/streaming which begins today, January 12th.

Director and writer Matt Osterman lives in Roseville, Minnesota which is just north of St. Paul and just east of Minneapolis. Yes, this is a true Twin Cities suburb. The film will screen at Theatres of The Mall Of America in Bloomington, as well as other theaters across the country.

MN-Premier-Poster1

400 Days is a psychological sci-fi film centering on four astronauts who are sent on a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away for 400 days, the crew’s mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world. Forced to exit the ship, they discover that this mission may not have been a simulation after all.

Somewhere between Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, Deliverance, and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey lies this film, 400 Days. While TZ, 2001, and Deliverance were produced long ago, these seem to be important influences for Matt Osterman.

As the film begins, one man is being released from prison, and then we are whisked to a press conference somewhere. The Director of Mission Control, Walter, is introducing the four ‘astronauts’. Just keep in mind that there’s no physical Mission or Ground Control, and we are not supposed to be anywhere near Houston or Cape Canaveral. And there’s no rocket/space craft.

As they say, this is a simulation.

There’s the Captain of the mission Theo, who is played by Brandon Routh. On this day, when the mission will launch, he complains of having just broken up with his girl friend who has backed out of a planned marriage. Consequently . he’s severely hung-over.

Caity Lotz plays Emily the Medical Officer.

Ben Feldman plays Bug who is the Science Officer.

Dane Cook plays Dvorak who is the Media and Communications Officer.

So they descend down into the bowels of the earth via a submarine-like hatch. When you first see the pristine interior, and the computer screens, and the first ‘synthetic’ meal – you will be thinking of 2001. There’s even camera ports stationed around this vessel which will allow you to think of HAL, the computer in 2001. Actually, the cameras are to allow Mission Control to monitor the would-be astronauts.

The days go by quickly. We jump from 7 days, to 26 Days, to 200 days, etc. Nothing much has happened other than some stress, tension, and mild hallucinations by some of the astronauts. Now these may be the result of their confinement, their isolation, and the full and total lack of sunshine. Or maybe it is due to some flaw that has created a problem with the delivery of oxygen, Or it could be because of the vaccines that Emily the Medical Officer insists they both need and are required to take.

Dvorak thinks they might be psychotropic medications intentionally administered to affect their minds, emotions, and behaviors.

We are not told what is happening, nor are explanations forthcoming. The theories that I just wrote about are really just information that we get from the characters. The screenplay is intent in keeping us as uninformed and as off-balance as the people we are watching.

400 Days - Official Trailer - In Theaters & On Demand January 12th 2016_20160112090308_6

More things happen and it becomes obvious, to us as viewers, that we are not supposed to be able to determine whether the activities are real, dreams, or hallucinations. But one thing is certain – they have lost any and all communications ability between themselves and Mission Control.

Eventually things get so desperate that a decision is made that they would have to take the risk and exit the ‘bunker’ and get to the surface. When they do – there’s no sunlight, nothing is growing, and a sample taken seems to have a specific substance that does not appear on earth. For simplicity’s sake – let’s call it ‘moon-dust’.

Are they on the earth, or are they on either the moon or another planet’s surface.  Were they a part of a simulation or was the simulation only a simulation itself and they really were on a space mission? That is the question tossed at us.

Once they reach the surface – more mysterious events come their way, and our way as well – and still, explanations, that is, solid explanations , are not in evidence.

And that is how the film remains until it concludes. It seems there are a lot of theories and questions that will occur to you, and as Director/Writer Matt Osterman has said in his Director’s Statement – he wants the viewers to come away and think about what they’ve just watched. He encourages theorizing and discussing – and he’s not going to give you answers to your theories.

It’s up to you.

Now that means that you might be frustrated by the open-endedness. You might have wanted a neatly wrapped explanation. Others of you may actually like being challenged by a film script.

To me, the film has a professional and high quality look to it. Especially while we are on-board. The look is altered  once the surface is reached, but that is intentional. As we are not to immediately know where we are. I thought the editing was standout, and the musical score was excellent as it maintained a sense of foreboding and uncertainty about everything.

The four leads perform quite well.

But in the end, it comes down to whether or not you are prepared for a challenge, whether or not you can handle the inconclusiveness, and finally, whether or not you are ready to see a film that intentionally leaves your questions unanswered.

Have a look at the trailer:

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3 thoughts on “400 Days from SyFy Films: Twin Cities Film Fest Insider Series

  1. Great review Mike!

    I think the influences of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey are palpable. I do think the film is well-made and doesn’t look cheap, though whether or not one enjoyed this or not depends on how open we are to films that don’t end neatly w/ a big red bow.

    • exactly.

      Argued from the opposite side – Osterman is courageous to end the film the way he did. But movie making is also about making money – so there will be a close look at box office returns as not every one will be pleased. I think this has been more than suggested by the Director’s Statement as well as your own interview with Matt.

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