Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Andromeda Strain

directed by Mikael Salomon

The Andromeda Strain poster  
A satellite falls to Earth just outside the small town of Piedmont, Utah, where two young lovers pick it up and bring it into town. Not long after, the army arrive to check out the satellite. But they find a town of dead bodies. A pathogen has broken out. Codenamed Andromeda, it's almost 100% lethal.

As a crack team of scientists is assembled it's hard to escape the ominous feeling that's growing. This feeling isn't so much about the Andromeda strain itself, but the clichéd way the plot is set up. The scientists gather in a secret underground complex to study Andromeda, underneath layers of strict, hi-tech security that's cunningly installed on top of a nuclear contraption that can blow them all to pieces should the need arise. It's the kind of laboratory that only exists in the movies, a plot device that wouldn't have been any more obvious if they had named it the Death Trap.

Meanwhile Jack Nash (Eric McCormack), a reporter recovering from addiction, has broken out of rehab to cover this story. He's been following conspiracy theories that centre around General Mancheck (Andre Braugher), who is coordinating the mission to contain this outbreak, Wildfire. Nash is a typical low-credibility maverick hack, but that doesn't stop people trying to silence him.

Just to complicate the plot a little further, the President (Ted Whittall) is facing opposition over deep-sea vent mining. So whilst the environmentalists are protesting about that, a much larger disaster is unfolding that they don't even know about. And when human lives are in such danger, the wildlife in the area doesn't get any consideration whatsoever. To avoid panic, the authorities are playing down events in Utah and covering up the true extent of Andromeda. It's a very negative view of a government that's riddled with people who are out for themselves, spinning webs of lies. If you like conspiracy, this movie has plenty of it.

Andromeda itself is definitely a character in its own right. It mutates, spreads with frightening speed, and evades understanding. In spite of their extremely shiny and well-equipped lab, the scientists are confounded by it. However this is a movie that makes the scientists look good, in that they are the ones who most often seem to take the moral and intellectual high ground.

Oddly, this film uses very similar music for some of its scenes of carnage as you hear in the zombie movie 28 Weeks Later ("In the House - In a Heartbeat" by John Murphy). Joel J Richard's soundtrack is not the same, but the reference is clear. It doesn't seem to be accidental, given the crazed way some of the people react before they succumb to the disease. There's also an element of the same frenzied atmosphere as you get in that movie.

The film uses every trick in the book to ramp up the tension, so that crises stack up. This would have been a spectacularly tense story, if only it weren't so predictable, and overdone with needless sub-plots.

The second half departs from the 1970 version to give the story an up to date treatment, so the scientific aspects are credible for a modern audience. The Andromeda Strain isn't a badly made movie, but there is a little too much emphasis on destruction and violence, and the plot could have done with some pruning to keep it more tightly focused.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson