Australian director Shane Abbess is a bit of an unsung champion of indie science-fiction filmmaking. Following his micro-budgeted 2007 fantasy cult hit debut Gabriel, the filmmaker fled to Hollywood, where he was set to direct Source Code (eventually helmed by Duncan Jones) and a belated but intriguing sequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 puppeteer fantasy The Dark Crystal.
He came to realise, however that producers were less interested in developing his bold, daring visions, and more by playing it safe and secure with eyes firmly fixed on making mega bucks. This lured Abbess back Down Under to helm Infini – a smartly economical and pleasingly old-school sci-fi flick where the filmmaker is very much at the helm of proceedings.
Set in the 23rd Century, Infini involves an elite search-and-rescue team who transport (via nifty slipstream space travel) onto an off-world mining facility to salvage Whit Carmichael, (Daniel MacPherson), the stranded sole survivor of a biological epidemic.
Unsurprisingly, events soon take a turn for the traumatic, and the space thriller quickly oozes into paranoid claustrophobia akin to classic Seventies/Eighties sci-fi shockers like Alien and The Thing, with a tip-of-the-hat to The Shining and a healthy dose of adrenaline-induced Aliens-style action.
The real masterstroke at play here is the menacingly immersive production design and deeply atmospheric soundtrack, the latter of which elevates proceedings to epic status and is comparable to the unconventional intervention of vintage Vangelis (Blade Runner).
Also inspired are the performances, particularly from Aussie headliners Daniel MacPherson and Luke Ford, who bring true grit and conviction to their emotionally demanding roles – no doubt nurtured by the on-set spartan living conditions during the production’s eight-week shoot.
Infini may be unapologetically small-scale and harken back to a string of well-known sci-fi hits, but what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in bold, gut-wrenching and no-holds-barred genre filmmaking.