I have to admit, when I noticed the message in my DM folder, I was expecting a dick pick.
Not so. It was a promo for a newly released short film called Outpost, apparently more than five years in the making, now finally released. I couldn’t help feeling intrigued. Anything marked as “epic science fiction” is bound to attract my interest. So I followed the link and watched.
Short films, like short stories, are underrated. It’s hard to build a compelling narrative in a short amount of time. Take three hours and many people could come up with something compelling. It requires great skill to pull off the same trick in a mere seventeen minutes.
Outpost manages to do just that. The story is not the most original I’ve ever encountered. A man and a strange woman (An android? A form of artificial intelligence?) find themselves together in the remote outpost that gives the film its title and flee from an unspecified danger. But rather than going for straightforward narration (as you’d find in longer, more mainstream films) Outpost elects to focus on atmosphere and mood. And it creates something genuinely compelling in the process.
The special effects, it should be said, are impressive. Far better than many examples I’ve recently seen in films with bigger crews and larger budgets. As a result the film looks slick and fresh. Science fiction, like most genre fiction, often rubs shoulders with cheesiness because so many of its tropes are recycled over and over again, to the point where they lose their ability to amaze. But in the case of Outpost, the crisp CGI makes the film look fresh instead of a mere reimagination of an existing vocabulary.
The result is a film as dreamy as it is ominous. Even though I didn’t quite understand what was going on, I both enjoyed and feared every second of it. There’s a strong sense of melancholy running throughout the film, created not in the least by the excellent performance of its actors, and amplified by its ambient music. That the creators managed to achieve all this with a small crew and – presumably – an equally small budget is nothing short of amazing.
In the end, what I loved most is that the film did not focus so much on its own epicness, despite the description. It’s actually a love story, narrated very carefully and understatedly, set in an out-of-this-world environment. This makes it worth watching even for those who normally claim to not like science fiction. For me, Outpost is not really about technology and the great big lights in the sky, but about the place of humanity in relation to them. A theme that should speak to anyone, regardless of your tastes.
Image: A still from Outpost, with Youtube subtitles for unintentional comedic effect