Outland (1981)
Directed by Peter Hyams

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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Sometime in the future, Marshal William O'Neil (Sean Connery) is assigned to a mining colony on the Jovian moon Io. There he discovers a conspiracy to provide the miners with a drug that has caused some of them to become deranged and engage in actions which have led to their deaths.

Peter Hyams' Outland is not a great film, but it is competently made, enjoyable to watch, and contains a number of genuinely fascinating themes and details.

Interestingly, the director borrows heavily from Fred Zinneman's High Noon, especially in the movie's final act, when O'Neil alone faces a group of gunmen hired to kill him, as the people of the colony, including his fellow police officers, refuse to help him. In fact, Hyams' inclusion of various elements found in Westerns in his own futuristic film are generally nicely handled, although, admittedly, some of the shifted clichés could have been discarded. The irascible quack doctor (Frances Sternhagen), for example, is frequently annoying and overdone. Connery, however, is appealing as the stern, hard loner who sets things right in a troubled town, and Peter Boyle, who plays a crooked corporate manager, ably provides a typical Western villain.

Fortunately, these two are not the movie's only virtues. The world in which the film is set, while not wildly imaginative, is well realized. The dingy, squalid mining colony has the feel of a plausible future settlement and does, as a consequence, successfully entice the viewer. What is more, the rough society of miners, claustrophobic surroundings, and emotional conflicts depicted throughout Outland all arouse feelings of tension and so enhance the sense of heroism centered on Connery's character.

There is little that is daring in Outland, but the movie's various elements are competently joined together and are reinvigorated by being set in a context different from that in which they are usually found.

Review by Keith Allen

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