‘Astronaut’ seems like it ought be an appealing story for young and old alike. Retired Engineer Angus is too old to be sent into space, but that is his one great wish. By chance, a space industrial company will send a contest winner into space, but Angus is clearly too old to qualify. Now, also by chance, he knows a deadly flaw in the launch plan that is being used by a private space entrepreneur.
This story could have been more exciting. Unfortunately, the plot falls apart under the weight of too many overly contrived coincidences. Director & writer: Shelagh McLeod. The film is also honoured with the presence of actor Graham Greene.
Rating: low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
This is a film with two or more themes that are unlikely companions. On one hand, it is about private companies with their own space programmes. Private enterprise is getting into the act in doing their own space development and exploiting space outside Earth’s atmosphere. On the other hand, it is about relationships among the elderly and also it has a little for young and old about hope.
Angus (played by Richard Dreyfus) is in his 80s and lives to see his grandson growing up and getting fascinated with the world moving into space. Angus once wanted to travel into space himself, but he was born just a little too early. Then private entrepreneur Marcus (Colm Feore) announces his space development company will run a contest in which one member of the public will win a free ride into space. If Angus could win the contest it would be a fulfilment of his most powerful dream. But Angus is about two decades too old to be doing any trips into space.
‘Astronaut’ has a bittersweet tone. As a film meant to appeal to kids, it does not make any moral judgements about Angus at times cheating and being unconcerned that his actions involve fraud. But it also tells the young to have an indomitable spirit.
Angus in the film has a deep love of space and passes that interest to his grandson. There is an overly familiar cliché in film storytelling. If an older person wants to inspire a younger one to love science he demonstrates it with a telescope. Films like ‘Contact’ frequently have such sequences.
Incidentally, Dreyfuss himself will be 72 years-old this year and appears to be a Science Fiction fan. He has written alternate history Science Fiction so he more or less fits the role.
At times, the director too obviously shows this to be a film for a younger audience. Other times the drama may be a bit strong for some children. I rate ‘Astronaut’ a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2019.