Proximity is the latest spectacle from Eric Demeusy – the mastermind behind TRON: Legacy’s visual effects. His new film explores self-discovery whilst in the midst of a deadly game of cat and mouse hidden within the shadows of mystery and corruption.
Opening in Alaska 1979, life is good – pickup trucks are on the road, it’s a beautiful day, everything seems normal. Until… Towering over the Wrangell woodland, a spacecraft – of magnificent CGI form – unloads a tractor beam, disrupting life as we know it.
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Fast-forward to the present day in California, and the madness appears to be back. First appearing as “Unknown Origin” on the computer system of NASA JPL’s Isaac, the young scientist ventures out to the hillside to produce a video diary as part of his self-care, but soon finds himself in the midst of the mystery as he levitates towards the sky, as found on his footage. Bewildered by the events experienced – and caught on tape – Isaac decides to spread the news and pursue the truth, but in doing so the path he treads is rife with untold dangers and risk.
Sometimes in sci-fi there is a wonderful juxtaposition in placing realistic characters in unrealistic stories. Isaac, played wonderfully by Ryan Masson, is perfectly relatable for any young person who has suffered the misfortune of being troubled by something out of their hands, be it the loss of a family member or lack of self-esteem. Attempting to globalise the alien content can be seen as Isaac’s effort at securing fame because he is somewhat lonely and craves such recognition.
The pursuit and chase of the alien mystery, essentially, is Isaac’s journey of self-growth and self-worth – a terrific character development. Of course, along the way he makes contact with Sara (Highdee Kuan) – another recipient of alien abduction – with whom he shares a common trait and is therefore able to establish the outcome of his journey more likely being a success. The power of friends.
In Isaac sharing his journey with Sara, Proximity transcends its sci-fi roots into existing as an adventure-drama movie. The preference and acceptance of this change is really down to whether the viewer would have preferred a fully fledged sci-fi or not. At numerous points where Proximity could delve deeper into sci-fi, specifically with the alien mythology and mystery, there are almost deliberate turns of avoidance, purposely changing focus or direction. Positively, these frequent turns do add layers to the story, though negatively, there is a clear struggle in establishing what Proximity wants to be.
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Eric Demeusy’s Proximity feels as though it could have worked better as a TV series. Early on, and during scenes with an oppositional agency lead by Agent Graves (Shaw Jones), there are strong Stranger Things vibes, thus a familiarity with what’s on screen, but that’s to be expected with elements of the story and concept. There is definitely a modern feel to this film. The production values are modern too – the special effects wouldn’t go amiss within any IMAX-screened blockbuster. However, that is to be expected with a master of visual effects at the helm.
Ultimately, Proximity is slightly unfulfilling in places, though that fails to stop its destiny in being a fun sci-fi/adventure/drama film. The only standout disappointment is the lacklustre exploration of the corrupt, mysterious agency also pursuing the aliens, though essentially, their backstory, despite posing great interest, lacks relevance to the journey of Isaac, which is what Proximity is all about.
Proximity is out now on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment.