Australian movie Infini invites audiences to get lost in space again.
It’s the 23rd Century, an opening text scroll informs us, and 95% of the Earth’s population lives in poverty. To make ends meet, and with a baby on the way. Whit Carmichael (Daniel MacPherson) has accepted a risky job working with an off-world search and rescue team. Whit can do this and come home everyday to his wife, because interplanetary travel is now accomplished using ‘slipstreaming’ technology. This means that humans are converted into data and beamed directly to their destination. Because of some quantum physics mumbo jumbo hours and even days spent off-world via slip stream, translate to mere minutes for those left behind on earth. I’m not being lazy the expositional line of dialogue explaining all this is, and I quote, “singularity, black hole bullshit”.
There is obviously a downside, a reason that working off-world using this technology is well remunerated. Firstly in order to work it involves a communications node being surgically implanted in your neck and hooked up to your central nervous system. This is kind of similar to Richard Morgan’s superb Takeshi Kovacks SF novels. Although Morgan’s conception of interplanetary travel makes more sense than Infini’s. In Morgan’s books human personalities are encoded, beamed as digital data and then downloaded into ‘cortical stacks’ storage devices implanted in human bodies. In Infini, this is basically a standard fantasy Star Trek transporter device that allows the entire person – body and all – to be beamed. Worse than the implant is the high statistical risk of data corruption during the process (the results of this is never shown, something of a missed opportunity). Of course, the real wizardry of the slipstreaming technology is its ability to make expensive spaceship VFX shots disappear from the budget spreadsheet.
Carmichael is suiting up for duty when another team returns from a job with some kind of airborne virus that causes the infected to go mental and tear their skin off. The standard risk management strategy for such an eventuality is to simply gas the staff to death (economics yo!) With seconds to spare Carmichael emergency beams to the very location from where this apparent virus has emanated.
Another team of expert salvage specialists with really REALLY big guns (Infini has a fondness for stupid looking and entirely impractical sci-fi weaponry) is dispatched to the source of the outbreak shortly after this disaster. The infected team had returned from Infini Station, a mining outpost and the most remote point on the interstellar network. The team’s mission is to discover the source of the infection, search for and quarantine survivors, and find Whit Carmichael.
It is a promising enough set up, with a few decent sci-fi ideas ripped from various cyberpunk novels. Unfortunately the movie face plants as soon as it arrives off-planet and turns into what is essentially a by-the-numbers corridors, flashlights and guns movie. The low budget becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses, never more obvious than in the repurposing of what are obviously iPhone jogging armbands as hi-tech wrist-pads. One close up is so large that you can actually see the little pouch that has been stitched in for keys, you can tell it’s this because of the little key symbol stamped on the thing.
It’s not just mobile phone accessories the movie wears on its sleeve. It is brazen in showing off its influences. Aliens, Event Horizon, DOOM, even Pandorum. Anything where people are chased up and down futuristic but functional dimly lit corridors. Infini is inferior to all of these (okay, maybe it’s marginally less horrible to watch than DOOM with its vomit inducing first person shooter bit).
There is an emerging threat that is more fantastical than a mere viral outbreak, and soon the various characters are all going out of their gourds. Mostly this involves shouting a lot. I needed to pop half a pack of generic ibuprofen after watching this. The middle of the film is just like having the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket scream into your face for an hour.
As conflict erupts, and the numbers dwindle Ten Little Indians style, the movie springs it’s action set piece, an interminable bout of fisticuffs that makes the punch up in They Live look like one of those Jeet Kune Do demonstrations Bruce Lee used to do on TV talk shows. Y’know the ones where he moves so fast he’s just a blur and they have to make him slow down and do it again.
Director Shane Abbess and his cinematographer Carl Robertson deserve some credit for making a decent looking film on limited resources, but the movie uses up all its ideas in the first 20 minutes, as soon as the spooky stuff begins, it busts up its transaxle and is just grinding metal. The final act features a terrible ending that completely undercuts everything before it. I only understood what had actually happened on the tube home after the screening.