The century is the 23rd and the world’s population is, for the most part, impoverished. In an effort to escape the rat race, the poor take jobs in dangerous extraterrestrial industries, of which even the commute, via a process of data transmission known as slipstreaming, is treacherous.
Whit Carmichael (Daniel MacPherson) is one such worker. Despite assuring his wife, pregnant with their first child, that he will be home for dinner after his first day on the job, the petrified look in his eyes betrays his awareness that survival is no sure thing in this business. The grimness of his reality is underlined when, within a matter of minutes of his arrival at West Coast division headquarters, Whit is left with no alternative but to slipstream without authorisation to space station Infini in order to escape an unexpected internecine attack.
This is the world of Infini, Australian director Shane Abbess’ second feature. It is a sci-fi thriller that, after a brief glimpse of a Blade Runner-esque cityscape, unfolds almost exclusively on the eponymous space station. A squad from the East Coast is sent to rescue Whit and, as it turns out, save Earth from imminent destruction. When members of the East Coast squad suddenly start to fall victim to a strange illness that produces highly volatile behaviour in the sufferer, Whit’s life is threatened once more. He must not only negotiate his increasingly violent rescuers, but, if possible, avoid infection himself.
There is much going on in Infini. Too much. Exposition dominates the opening act to such an extent that there is little room for much else – Whit’s home life is so briefly glimpsed at the film’s outset that repeated references to its significance to the protagonist fail to resonate. Along similar lines, screen time is wasted on a number of plot points that never progress. With science-y jargon (‘primordial ooze’) and stale banter (‘bro-hemeus’) cluttering the screenplay, the ambition behind Infini’s conceit is considerably undermined.
There is certainly a sense that Abbess was aspiring to create a film that contemplates similar questions to those pondered by the aforementioned Ridley Scott masterpiece and other great films of the science-fiction genre. But those themes emerge too late in proceedings and, even then, are not particularly well developed. As it stands, Infini plays best as a schlocky genre piece. One man. One space station. One dinner date. The set and costume design is impressive, the direction is solid (if occasionally disorienting), and the action never lets up.
Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 110 minutes
Infini is available digitally on iTunes, Google Play, Foxtel on Demand and other streaming providers from 8 May 2015 through Entertainment One.