Cast: Alex Sharp, Gillian Anderson, David Strathairn
Director: Ryan Eslinger
85 minutes (12) 2018
Sony DVD Region 2
Review by Steven Hampton
Unfortunately, in today’s America of Trump-led ignorance, and opposition to rationality and intellectual proficiency, any SF drama that begins with a science lesson, particularly one that involves physics or maths, is asking for trouble. Recent changes to traditions in cinema indicate that details like equations are usually off-putting to all but hardcore genre fans. I don’t want to seem elitist, but a movie like UFO calls for viewers willing to accept a certain degree of scientific rigour that simply does not look particularly dramatic unless the savvy importance of it is grasped in relation to the level of understanding by the story’s educated characters.
However, in this case, if you can stick with the ambitious movie's puzzle solving aspects, the emotional pay-off is quite worthwhile, as UFO is a rewarding tale of one young man’s perseverance against overwhelming odds. Derek (Alex Sharp) is a university student who investigates news reports about a flying saucer, and uncovers a government conspiracy. A mystery surrounds the sighting above an airport. Was the object in sky really an extra-terrestrial spacecraft, or just a rogue drone that was, perhaps, under the remote control of potential terrorists?
Critical analysis and perspective views are vital to determine the difference between the UFO’s apparent and actual size, and Derek’s innate curiosity soon becomes an intense obsession, with a determination to find the truth about a suspicious removal of air-traffic data from public records and the source of an official gagging-order to silence airport staff.
Thankfully, in addition to championing the young hero’s quest, Ryan Eslinger’s intriguing movie wisely includes big stars like Gillian Anderson, as a professor, and David Straithern - playing an FBI investigator, to deliver salient points about scientific complexity in their varied but characteristic roles as cynical but nonetheless compassionate supporting roles.
Derek appears to be a survivor of a close encounter with aliens in his childhood. Now he is clearly suffering a primary fixation with UFOlogy in this adolescent crisis. Inspiration can be a challenge, whether sought after, or not, and Derek’s confrontations with official or academic authorities plays out in a similar fashion to the young upstart in Dark Matter (2007), who disputes conventional thinking about natural science. When obsessive Derek tackles government agents, UFO generates a tangential relevance to earth-shaking teen dramas like WarGames (1983).