Peter Hyams' OUTLAND
By Dennis D. McDonald
I saw this 1981 sci-fi film when it was first released in theaters and remember being impressed. Visually its production design resembles the grittiness of the Nostromo interiors from the original ALIEN. Dramatically it holds its own and stands the test of time.
It’s basically a Western in space patterned somewhat after the classic film HIGH NOON. A non-nonsense and honest marshal (Sean Connery) has discovered serious corruption on a mining colony in orbit on Io around Jupiter. Much of the film is spent following his calm preparations for the assassins that have been sent by the corrupt company who will arrive on the next supply shuttle.
For the most part the marshal is on his own. His wife and child have already left having tired of being away from Earth for so long as they follow him around his various off-Earth job postings. In the film we follow his fruitless attempts to gather support from the miners. They view him as a “dead man” and want nothing to do with him.
While the production design, costuming, and miniatures are still impressive (as will be those in Hyams’ future film 2010) what really holds the film together is Connery’s performance. This is a mature and careful Connery, not the cocky and arrogant James Bond Connery. He’s believable in the role as he prepares for the coming confrontation with the assassins who will arrive on the next shuttle. The final confrontation does not disappoint as it plays out within the confines of the colony and outside in the vacuum of Io. Recommended.
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald