Review Written by Joshua Aube
Project-M had its world premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival… sort of. This is the first time the director’s preferred cut of the film has screened theatrically. It was shown in its original episodic nature at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, and is available online in the same format.
The film explores a fictional future in which Quebec has separated from Canada and is now among the world’s wealthiest countries. Due to dwindling natural resources, they fund a 1000-day expedition into space to analyze Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and discover what may be harvestable from its surface.
While promotional material may pitch the film as an action-oriented science-fiction romp, it’s more akin to Vincenzo Natali’s 1997 feature, Cube- also a low-budget Canadian film in the same budget ballpark.
Psychology and human relations hit heaviest, even in its most militaristic moments. Unfortunately, the punches they pull are likened to a toddler’s slap.
The problems arise from the film’s narrative structure. It begins with exposition. A lot of it. The cast of characters are introduced through broadcast interviews, as they delve into the mission statement of Project-M; it’s stale dialogue, ripped from the pages of a press release.
The film doesn’t create any sense of character for its main cast until the second act of the film, when each is put through their individual conflicts. Familial issues, lost love, guilt and the absence of forgiveness are some of the many cliches used through flashback sequences to hasten our attachment to the crew.
While the film’s modest $250,000 budget is spent wisely through sparse visual effects and atmospheric set pieces, it is the weak character development that is ultimately its crippling point.
For the lack of three dimensional characters in a film that relies so heavily on our investment in their lives, I cannot recommend Project-M.
★ 1/2 / ★★★★★
If you’re still interested, Project-M may work better in its original format. The 10-episode web series is available from Z, a division of Bell Media.
Joshua Aube is a graduate of the English, Sociology and Film Studies program at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Joshua Aube currently lives in Calgary, Alberta where he writes freelance articles about his favourite pastime: Film.