Pros:Very interesting plot, riveting story
Cons:Pacing issues, mediocre acting
The Bottom Line: While the story is fascinating, it might be better told in the pages of a book than on a film screen
Robert Wise might be most famous for making the musical hits West Side Story and The Sound of Music, but that didn’t stop him from making contributions in the field of sci-fi films as well. The 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Stillis still one of my all time favorite classic sci-fi films, and even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I can give the man credit for what he did putting it together. It was with that in mind that I decided to give his 1971 film The Andromeda Strain a shot after having passed on it for years, thinking the film could never live up to the Michael Crichton novel. After watching it for the first time, I can honestly say I was right all along.
Recommend this product?
The film, told occasionally with cut scenes of flashback, narration from third parties and other trick techniques to try to authenticate the circumstances of the film, tells the story of a group of scientists who must discover the secrets of a mysterious alien virus before it can spread and destroy the entire human race.
Arthur Hill plays Dr. Jeremy Stone, the head of a secret scientific project known only as Wildfire, whose sole purpose is to be called in when alien life is found on earth. Such a situation arises in the small town of Piedmont, New Mexico, where a small military satellite carrying samples from outer space crashes. Everyone in town, save for an old man and a baby, dies instantly from a strange clotting of the blood or goes insane and kills themselves.
Stone and the rest of his team (played by David Wayne, James Olson and Kate Reid) are called in to analyze the situation and discover the nature of the alien organism, which is brought back to the Wildfire Complex in the Nevada desert. The organism, termed Andromeda, is unlike anything ever seen before, and the group quickly realizes that it has the ability to destroy anything in its path if it can’t be stopped. It becomes a race against time to try to stop Andromeda before Andromeda wipes out everything and everyone, including Wildfire…
The plot of the film is fascinating and extremely well told. The details that are used throughout the film seem fairly accurate (to the point where things jump from science to science fiction) and the story does a good job of keeping interest from start to finish. If there is a highlight to the film, it has to be that.
The acting from the main stars is competent, though not overly stirring. Kate Reid as Dr. Leavitt brings some moments of levity with some interesting dialogue, but as a whole most of the acting is fairly straightforward to the point of being hollow. There is never a point where you feel any sort of emotional attachment to the people involved, so it is hard to have a vested interest in the survival of anyone. You basically want the scientists to solve the mystery for the good of humanity…but you aren’t really concerned if you lose a couple of them along the way.
The film also plays out in such a manner as to try to build suspense through slow, measured movements. While this deliberate manner works for a little while, it becomes tedious and bothersome after a while. In particular, as each level of the Wildfire Complex is gone through and explained at a snail’s pace, it takes more and more attention away from the main plot of the film. The pacing improves in the second half of the film, but there are still moments of jarring boredom that break the positive momentum.
Overall, I was a little disappointed in the film, even though I did find the story very interesting. The pacing had some issues and the acting wasn’t up to the par I would have hoped, but it still kept me riveted from start to finish. That being said, given the opportunity again, I’d probably read the book before I watched the film again. 2.5 out of 4 stars