Proximity Review – Retrotastic sci-fi themes spoiled by a clumsy story 5

When I first saw the trailer for Proximity, I was quite excited. While the small-scale film had flown completely under the radar for me in its development, it seemed to tick all the right boxes for what I look for in a decent sci-fi movie. A lot of mystery, great tension and a story that challenges you. That it took its inspiration from some of the great sci-fi flicks of all time like E.T, only fuelled my excitement for the film.

In reviewing the final product, I can only say that while the film ticked most of the boxes I was expecting, it also left me feeling greatly disappointed at the way the whole experienced fizzled out. Starting off, Proximity is quite literally drawing its inspiration from the 80s sci-fi era. While the movie is technically set in the present (although the technology on display is a big-mish mash of retro, modern and futuristic camera and PC technology, it has the same atmosphere from that classic era of filmmaking. From aspects of its set design, cinematography, to its squeaky-clean dialogue, big secret government organisations and even a synth-powered score. In fact, even when we do get some orchestral elements in the score, it sounds like it’s taking directly from the pages of John Williams himself as it is reminiscent of his scores during this time.

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This is not a result of writer/director Eric Demeusy being lazy and unoriginal, though he is deliberately trying to make the film feel this way, and even referencing E.T early on as a form of foreshadowing. If you grew up watching sci-fi films from this period, you are going to feel pretty nostalgic about Proximity.

As for the story of Proximity, the film follows scientist Isaac (Ryan Masson) who happens to be close to the vicinity of a ”meteor crashing” and when trying to investigate, encounters some aliens and gets abducted. Three days later, he tries to make sense of what happened to him and find people who believe in him, only to eventually get the attention of a secret government organisation trying to cover everything up and he ends up going on the run with a fellow abductee Sara (Highdee Kuan) and a rebellious computer hacker Zed (Christian Prentice).

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Proximity starts off excellently, with lots of bizarre mystery and intrigue, leaving you feeling for Isaac and his predicament and filling you with many questions around the consequences of the unfolding event. The film’s biggest failure here is that Masson plays the role a little too calmly and you never get the feeling that he is really troubled by what happened to him. It all feels a little too easy and convenient for what should be a harrowing event. In fact, the majority of the acting in this movie is quite poor and feels out of place with the on-screen tension. There are also a couple of issues around the lack of concern from the likes of his company of employment tasked with investigating said meteor event that also don’t quite add up and are never fully explained.

Despite all that, you still feeling interested in the events unfolding and you want to see more. About midway through Proximity, though things start going a little bizarre and this is where the film starts to lose much of its credibility. Taking further inspiration from other genre films, this phase of Proximity includes its own Men in Black moment along with some robots who bare far too much resemblance to Doctor Who’s Cybermen crossed with Star Wars Stormtroopers, including a tendency to miss everything they shoot at. While you could argue that this is in keeping with the way that Proximity is drawing its inspiration from other films, these moments feel too out of place with the rest of the film.

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Still, you could live with these issues if they could just keep the narrative tension on track, but Proximity sadly goes downhill from here with events unfolding that appear all too convenient, implausible or unexplained. And building up to one of the most anti-climactic endings I have ever seen in a film. Not only is the final reasoning for the aliens abducting humans laughable at best, but the entire final scene between the protagonists and the supposed bad guys plays out in a way that is never fully explained and a complete cop-out to all the current tension. The film deserved more, and you feel cheated in the process.

Overall, for a lower-budget movie, the majority of its production values hold up. You can certainly spot some cheap visual effects at times, but otherwise these are all well executed. If it weren’t for a disappointing story and some mediocre acting, this film could’ve provided a great story along with a classic dose of 80s nostalgia Instead, it will leave you feeling frustrated that it never quite made use of its fantastic platform. The film has many great ideas, but it suffers from perhaps trying to lean too hard on other films rather than carve out its own unique path forward.

Last Updated: May 11, 2020

Proximity
Proximity is a film filled with fantastic 1980s nostalgia and has a great build-up, but it sadly falls apart thanks to some clumsy writing and a disappointing climax.
4.0

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