Film (2011). High Fliers. Written and directed by William Eubank. Cast includes Bradley Horne, Corey Richardson and Gunner Wright. 80 minutes. Colour.
In 2039 a lone astronaut is posted to the International Space Station after two decades' abandonment, but loses contact with Earth; in the years of isolation that follow he discovers the journal of a Civil War soldier recounting the 1864 discovery of a mysterious artefact in Arizona, which resurfaces to bewildering effect for the climax.
A sustained homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) with declared influences from Carl Sagan, this finely realized if deeply cryptic low-budget feature had an unusual genesis in a music video project for the band Angels and Airwaves, who financed what began as a cycle of ten music videos but metastasized into a feature film scored by the band. Over four years Eubank built a replica Space Station in his parents' backyard, exhausting his budget early and watching in frustration as the similarly-set but thematically much less audacious Moon (2009) came and went. The film relies in part on viewers' familiarity with Kubrick's film in order to process its mystagogic finale, which plays as something like an arthouse version of the climax of Robert Zemeckis' Contact (1997), to which it significantly alludes. A testingly languid first hour finally bursts in a challenging, elliptical cascade of incompletely penetrable revelations and oblique narrative shunts, as the artefact turns out to be the archive of a now extinct or Transcended humanity, and the astronaut's Last Man ordeal a demonstration of the species' need for human connection. Much is left ambiguous at the end. [NL]
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