Space really is the final frontier in writer/director team Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s audaciously lo-fi Sci-Fi/Western Prospect.

Dragged around the galaxy by her fortune-hunting father Damon (Jay Duplass), teenager Cee (escapes from the gritty mundanity of her daily existence by losing herself in jangly Asian pop music and the stories she writes, dreaming of a better life. Damon is a prospector, searching dangerous alien worlds for resources and minerals, convinced that a lucrative, lifechanging payday is just around the corner, his daughter faced with no choice but to tag along, his reluctant partner.

Riding a battered landing pod down to the surface of a toxic forest moon, the pair have just a few short days (or risk being marooned forever) to find and harvest a fortune in precious gems, carefully extracting them from the volatile, acidic bellies of sluglike alien pods, Damon having the coordinates to the fabled Queen’s Lair. 

But when their paths cross with two shady fellow prospectors-turned-bandits and Damon’s greed gets the better of him, a firefight erupts that leaves Damon and one of the bandits dead and forces Cee to reluctantly join forces with the charming, loquacious and thoroughly untrustworthy Ezra (Pedro Pascal) if either of them are going to get off the planet alive let alone rich…

It may be set in a broken-down, defiantly analogue future but Prospect may just be the best Western you’ve seen in a long while, drawing on the likes of True Grit, The Scalphunters, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre and, of course, Joss Whedon’s Firefly (Cee and Ezra’s plight feels like it could have once been a treatment for an episode of the cancelled TV show) for its classic tale of greed, human weakness, sudden violence and shifting loyalties, balancing genre thrills with some grubby, immersive worldbuilding.

Cee’s Universe is more 1901 than 2001, Caldwell and Zeek eschewing the sleek, high-tech machinery and gleaming, sterile, interiors of Kubrick’s vision in favour of one of lived-in grime, of portholes smeared with filthy fingerprints, cobbled together spacesuits and litter strewn space pods that look more like a van that someone’s reduced to living in, the directors knowing that those portholes are emblematic of Cee’s journey, the majesty of the Universe glimpsed only through its detritus. Prospect is also refreshingly free of intrusive CGI, the alien world Cee and Ezra explore a verdant, but poisonous, forest more reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest than the customary desolate, desert wastelands we’re used to, the biggest clue we’re not in Kansas anymore the gas giant that dominates the horizon.

Death doesn’t just lurk in the forest though with humans, as ever, the biggest threat to Cee and Ezra’s survival, Andre Royo’s deranged prospector gone native, a twitchy, creepy cult leader with designs on the teenage girl while his fellow The Wire alumnus Anwan Glover and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s Sheila Vand make a formidable pair of space pirates, Vand, as ever, almost stealing the film with a near wordless performance of malevolence. As Ezra, Pascal trades on his lizardy charm to create a sympathetic if conniving antihero. We may never been in much doubt that Ezra will ultimately come good but the naked avarice that glitters in Pascal’s eyes when he’s offered a box of priceless gems for Cee does give you pause and the chemistry between Pascal and newcomer Thatcher is electric, their relationship constantly evolving. Pascal chatty, mannered faux-Southern rogue may get the lion’s share of the dialogue but it’s Thatcher who carries and drives the film.

Tough, gritty and occasionally astonishing, Caldwell and Earl’s Sci-Fi indie Prospect is a bold, intimate vision of a future taking place not in a galaxy far, far away but one right around the corner.

Prospect will be screening at the The Prince Charles Cinema, London @ 9pm on Thursday 11th April as part of the SCI-FI LONDON Film Festival 2019 and will be available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD from Monday 22nd April, 2019.

Movie Review: Prospect
5.0Overall Score
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