Friday, September 20, 2019


Nick Attin

Nelson Obatala (Kearn Samuel) is an astronaut on the first manned space mission for Trinidad and Tobago. He awakens from stasis twenty months later than he should have, only to discover that his sister ship and its pilot have veered off course due to the AI of that ship following a mysterious signal. Nelson pursues the other ship only to encounter something far stranger.

Tomb is notable for the being the first science-fiction to film to be produced and shot in Trinidad and Tobago. This fact is mirrored in the plot of the film which is about the first space mission from the Caribbean. The film had a minuscule budget to work with so a good 75% of is green screened with CGI sets and live actors. The finale takes place almost entirely on a single section of a beach. Often a CGI set in a small production (and quite a few large ones) can look terrible. The green screen effects here are very obviously unreal but director Nick Attin leans into the brightness of the simple computer imagery with light environments and sunny exterior shots.

"Laura Croft better watch herself, that's all I'm saying."

After reading the plotline, “Astronaut falls through a portal into heaven,” I went in expecting the film to be less science-fiction and more of a meditation science vs. faith. Tomb flirts with this idea only a little and the majority of that is at the beginning when a reporter is questioning one of the astronauts. The film doesn’t actually even get to heaven until well into the third act. Even here there is only a little time spent engaging with the idea, but an unexpected villain arrives to throw some science-fiction back into climax. Tomb ends up being more of a pulp adventure than some lengthy pompous treatise on love in space (or whatever Interstellar (2014) was trying to do.) I appreciate that turn for its unexpectedness.

The vast majority of the film is spent with Kearn Samuel as Nelson Obatala even though we don’t get to actually see his face until a half-hour into the film. The first segment is told mostly through shots from Nelson’s point of view as we see him and fellow astronaut, Mercer (Gregory Pollonais), preparing for their journey. It is an odd choice, especially since Mercer then disappears for most of the movie. I assume this decision was motivated by money and actor availability. I have no problem spending time with Kearn though, even though I felt his early scenes aboard his ship are a little stilted. However, he really does bring emotional weight to his later scenes.

*Babylon 5 noises*
Tomb tantalizes with little details: the astronauts spend hypersleep in ‘death-suits’ complete with skull faceplates, ancient artificial intelligences, and even the effects of relativity in a portal to paradise. Tomb just touches on these things with enough detail to satisfy the narrative but still leave a sense of wonder about them, something that much modern SF often fails to do. If the film does have a significant flaw it is that it is too quick to rush towards a happy ending when it sure feels like it is heading for a darker final note. Still, the ride up to that point is worth it.

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