After the first manned mission to Mars ends in a deadly crash, mission controller Mackenzie ‘Mack’ Wilson is summoned to assist an artificial intelligence system – ARTI.
Their investigation uncovers a mysterious object under the surface of Mars, leading to a discovery that could change the future of our planet as we know it in this sci-fi mystery epic directed by Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull.
2036 Origin Unknown has a pleasingly complex thread running through it. In a future where humanity assists AI, Mackenzie isn’t so much Sherlock Holmes as she is Watson, despite being fiercely intelligent in her own right. Against this backdrop, Katee Sackhoff does a superb job as Mackenzie in this largely closed room science fiction drama. Aside from ARTI (Steven Cree) as the voice of reason, we have Lena (Julie Cox), Mackenzie’s sister, who presents herself as a corporate antagonist to her visionary and Sterling (Ray Fearon), a former tech fired from the project makes brief appearances and may know more than he’s letting on, but so does everyone in this film, it seems.
Between Mackenzie’s quest to undo mistakes of the past, ARTI’s ongoing investigation of the mystery that brought down Martian 1 and what’s on Mars, and Lena’s standoffish approach to it all, there’s a great drama under the surface of a film that may not find the audience it deserves.
Visually, 2036 Origin Unknown looks impressive. A lot of details has gone into the design and the Mars landscape, what we see of it from Mackenzie’s perspective. It all adds to the ambition of the project and it largely pays off, raising it well above some of the straight-to-DVD films that pack supermarket shelves.
There’s a touch of Duncan Jones’ Moon to this story of isolation and an interesting, if somewhat 1970s tinged ending that’ll definitely satisfy fans of other films to which 2036 Origin Unknown pays homage. It’s in the final act that the film really gets interesting as we discover the truth about ARTI and the helplessness that Mac faces as its purpose comes to fruition and we get the full extent of what’s happened and why in all its psychedelic and surreal glory.
An effectively made film, 2036 Origin Unknown may end up on supermarket DVD shelves amongst the usual straight-to-DVD disappointments, but it deserves so much more. It may not be The Martian, Gravity or Interstellar, but it deserves an opportunity to be seen.
Dir: Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull
Scr: Gary Hall
Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Julie Cox, Steven Cree, Ray Fearon
Prd: James T. Ryan, Anis Shlewet
DOP: Adam Sculthorp
Country: United Kingdom
Runtime: 94 mins
Available on Digital HD & DVD from 13th August