The Astronaut's Wife
Dir: Rand Ravich
Star: Charlize Theron, Johnny Depp, Clea DuVall, Joe Morton
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1999
Format: DVD R2

Commander Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) and Captain Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) are astronauts on a shuttle mission when a accident happens. The shuttle loses contact with them for two minutes and the mission has to be aborted. Injured but safe they make it back much to the relief of Spencer's wife Jillian (Charlize Theron), however shortly after their return Captain Streck dies. This is the first in a number of small events that start to make Jillian suspicious. Something is not quite right as her husband has started to act more and more strangely. Just what did happen in those two minutes in space.

The Astronauts Wife is a sci-fi film of the old school. It is very reminiscent of the original Village of the Damned and The Quatermass Xperiment films mixed with a bit of Invasion of the body snatchers . Does this make it a tired mismatch of genres, definitely not. It is the sort of old school sci-fi thriller that we see very rarely nowadays, and while it may not eclipse or even match the previously mentioned films it certainly doesn't disappoint fully.

The pace of the film starts very slowly, maybe a little too slowly. There is quite a lot of inconsequential nonsense that really could have been cut. The reason it wasn't is I think that it's because the film is viewed from the wife's perspective. This means that she wouldn't know what happened in space (so no big explanatory effects sequence at the start) and that to her things would appear to be rather normal. In a way this is quite clever as it drags you along with her, thus as the pace hots up you are more involved with Jillian's plight when her life begins to unravel. However this doesn't detract from the fact that the first few minutes are a bit of a slog.

As things get moving Johnny Depp's character starts to come into its own. In the beginning he's rather twee and two dimensional (He's do darn nice you'd swear he was a Stepford husband before anything has even happened) but as the film progresses he becomes progressively weirder and more scary. This is where Johnny Depp's acting ability really shines. Charlize Theron is adequate and pretty convincing, but her performance is almost identical to that in The Devils Advocate. This in the context of this film is perfectly satisfactory. Apart from that Joe Morton puts in a fine performance as the discredited NASA employee, and Clea DuVall, Tom Noonan and Blair Brown add good supporting talent.

The direction of the film is for the most part ok, and apart from the initial pacing the final half hour is gripping as things reach an unnerving climax. The story does rather fumble the ball occasionally Clea DuVall's character is not well developed, and it is difficult to see what part she plays in the story. Also not enough is made of a possible wider conspiracy. This is rather annoying as you are not told just how big a threat that the Earth is facing. I mean what is all of that stuff about a fighter plane and sound waves, and are NASA and Maclaren industries all in on the deal. It would have been so much better if we knew as it could have been used to crank up the tension.

The Astronaut's Wife is a fairly good sci-fi thriller of the sort that isn't often made any more. When it works, it works well, but their are problems. The patchy script and pacing do stop this film from ever becoming excellent. Added to this are the less than special effects (not a big problem as they are not a major part of the film), and these things added together mean that the film can never be more than pretty good. By all means do give this film a watch it is worth it, but I recommend you hunt out the original Village of the Dammed afterwards to see how this sort of movie is done properly.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Logan's view:

I found The Astronauts Wife a lame and very dissappointing cross between Rosemary's Baby and Species 2. What special effects there are in the film, look horribly cheap and nasty, worsened by some dire photography. The shots of the rubbery looking babies are cheesily bad and laughable, tacky to the extreme and could have been done so much better. Charlize Theron looks uncomfortable and out of place and struggles to maintain a tense performance, even with her amply demonstrated talent which is due I think to the script which seriously borders upon banal. Johnny Depp ....oh, just don't get me started! He went from a good performance in The Ninth Gate to just standing around looking pathetic and pitiful in this film, I feel sorry for him having to take unchallenging and pointless roles such as this. To be honest this is an awful film which lacks atmosphere, story, special effects and a decent ending. About as thrilling as a bowl of custard, about as much suspense as a tea leaf and about as much horror as an ice cream. All of the ensemble cast have done much better, this is one to keep on overlooking at the rental store.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Picture 16:9 Good but a little bleached.
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital Yep its good, but isn't really used that much.
Features Cast biographies
An original ending which is far better that the tired cliche ending used in the film.
Verdict Said it before and i'll say it again nice disc shame about the extras. Although the other ending is well worth it.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home