Written and Directed by Shane Abbess.
Starring Daniel MacPherson, Grace Huang and Luke Hemsworth.
An elite ‘search and rescue’ team transport onto an off-world mining-facility to rescue Whit Carmichael, the lone survivor of a biological outbreak.
There’s an old movie saying, that an audience would rather be confused than bored, but this latest entry into the space horror genre seems to take that idea to an unnecessary level. It’s as if the filmmakers had too many ideas, and characters, and simply didn’t know which ones to follow.
Infini, written and directed by Shane Abbess, and produced in Australia, is an attempt at combining Nolanesque philosophising and sci-fi horror carnage, but it ultimately doesn’t quite realise its ambitions. Let down by muddled concepts, thin characterisations and abandoned plot points, it manages to entertain in fits and starts, ending up as a halfway decent adaptation of a non-existent video game, and one seemingly devised by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Itchy and Scratchy. Perhaps some game designers should start reverse engineering asap.
Ironically Infini’s protagonist is a game creator himself named Whit Carmichael, who in the early years of the economically depressed 23rd century finds himself, like most people, looking for a second job. Naturally these avenues of employment are at the dangerous end of the scale – interstellar mining, security etc – and understandably his pregnant wife is more than a little concerned. When Whit confidently declares he’ll be back for dinner, you know things are about to go very wrong.
Joining a tactical security team from the West Coast base (geography is not particularly explained), Whit is due to enjoy his first experience of the transportation technology of Slipstreaming – passing structured matter from one point to another over vast distances as bits of data. Less the wonder of wormholes, and more a full body shake and bake.
After dangling intriguing possibilities such as data corruption and time-stealing from ‘Slip-logs’, these notions are blown under the carpet when the West Coast is suddenly confronted by the return of infected and/or demented mission personnel. With the base about to be ‘quarantined’ (read: annihilated), Whit has no choice but to make an unscheduled Slipstream jump to the very place all the trouble started – Infini, the furthest outpost in space.
Following up the chaos out West, the East Coast team have to step in and find out what’s been happening. Adding to the rescue of Whit, they’ll have to contend with preventing a mined payload of planet-destroying capability being sent back to
Earth. There’s also some concern with time-dilation, but this is less Kip Thorne, and more space travel for dummies; or in the words of the mission controller, ‘singularity, blackhole bullshit’. So, gathering a motley crew of Australian and American accents (and possibly a cockney), they Slipstream to the cinematic familiarity of Infini’s colony, a world of grim steel, dank corridors, and darkness.
The human inhabitants are seemingly no threat as they’ve been purposefully neutralised by exterminating cold, but bloody remnants and organic alterations point to something beyond space dementia. Economic depression or no, you really do wonder why anyone would be a space miner.
Titular hero, Whit, is found alive but in bad shape, having spent days all alone with the mayhem (remember all the time dilation fun and games). He’s soon drafted into helping though as he seems to be only one who can decipher how to stop the systems launching the payload. Team skills analysis before galaxy hopping obviously not being a priority on the East Coast.
There’s something to do with a furnace stopping the launch but it’s lost in muddy exposition and action, and by the time everything is safe we’re less concerned with what a close call that was, and more with why the base systems contain a dead language, the fact that keyboards are still in use, and that after 200 years, humanity still hasn’t come up with a better energy system than wind turbines.
In the best tradition of course, problems are only just beginning, and it’s here that Abbess at least tries to inject Infini with something more substantial. Questions of identity, delusion, and existential angst, rather than Doom (well, maybe a little Doom), and a bigger understanding of the human condition, or lack of it.
The production design is impressive and overcomes, visually, any budgetary limitations, even though certain corridors become overly familiar; but ultimately style can’t triumph over substance, and the problems with Infini, both as a film, and a place, come down to due diligence. A little more time in development before jumping would have gone a long way in exorcising often baffling behaviour.
Not long on Infini, one team member finds a room of bloody organic matter, including a human face, and declares there’s nothing to report. He then just stays put, abandoned by a screenplay that fumbles to give him place in the story. Or a modicum of sense.