Other Worlds Austin: Reconnoiter

Lo-fi sci-fi busts micro-production expectations

A new Robinson Crusoe given extraordinary life in low-budget British SF drama Reconnoiter, which debuted in Texas at Other Worlds Austin this weekend.

It seems pretty gauche to talk about a movie's budget and production. But once in a while a film appears that it's hard to believe that it was made on no resources. When it happens, as with British sci-fi drama Reconnoiter, it's a testament to the filmmakers' grit and creativity.

Receiving its Texas premiere on Friday as part of Other Worlds Austin, Reconnoiter focuses on a pilot (Ian Rowe), sent on an exploratory mission: In the fairly near future, the recieving end of a teleportation system finally arrives at its destination, an Earth-like planet 20 light years from his home. His job is to zip through the device, orbit twice, and head back home. However, nothing is that simple, and he ends up crash-landing on a world where the only inhabitants seem to be humanoid and canine robots.

At first glimpse, this seems like a modified Robinson Crusoe in Space, but there's something deeper, more mournful here. Rowe doesn't feel like a hero: He feels like a man sent on a job, a pragmatic pilot of the stoic English extraction. The technology around him, while futuristic, is recognizable: His ship has hints of NASA's Orion rocket and SpaceX's reusable system, while the robots clearly share digital DNA with the designs emerging from Boston Dynamics. It makes the world feel grounded and recognizable. At the same time, the wilds of Dartmoor National Park – windblasted, storm-shrouded, historically the cinematic preserve of Hammer Horror – are rendered oddly alien.

What makes this more extraordinary is that the whole endeavor is created by a core team of three people: Rowe; his brother, writer/director Neil Rowe; and Neil's wife, producer/composer Amanda Rowe. What's truly amazing is that they combine just enough real-world artifacts (the pilot's uniform looks assembled from a well-stocked military surplus store) with some of the best home-drawn CG (by Neil Rowe and Gareth Knight) since Neil Blomkamp's game changing short, "Tetra Vaal." And what's best is that, throughout, this is a story with a complicated moral about the unexpected consequences of best intentions.

Thoughtful and ingenious, Reconnoiter is reminiscent of the equally ambitious Coherence, in that it is a testament to the limitlessness of ideas. The setup, of a man caught in a war of machines, could have turned into a low-budget Terminator. Instead, as the pilot finds slivers and hints of the real nature of this tragic new world, it builds to a moving and elegiac resolution.

For more on Reconnoiter, visit www.reconnoitermovie.com.

For more on the Other Worlds Austin Science Fiction Film Festival (Dec. 3-5) visit www.otherworldsaustin.com.

More Other Worlds Austin
How <i>Diverge</i> Came Together
How Diverge Came Together
Director James Morrison on films and filmmakers that influenced him

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 15, 2017

Other Worlds Austin Crosses the <i>Event Horizon</i>
Other Worlds Austin Crosses the Event Horizon
Film fest opens with 20th anniversary of sci-fi/horror classic

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 15, 2017

More Bear Fonté
Other Worlds Austin Announces Mary Shelley Award Finalists
Other Worlds Austin Announces Mary Shelley Award Finalists
Shortlist for prize for rising female film talents

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 23, 2016

Other Worlds Austin Lights the <i>Embers</i>
Other Worlds Austin Closing Film
Post-apocalyptic drama joins list of Shelley Award nominees

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 19, 2015

More by Richard Whittaker
Heading Out West With Ingrid
Heading Out West With Ingrid
Director Matt Spicer's social media satire Ingrid Goes West

Aug. 18, 2017

<i>Shot Caller</i>'s Vivid Look at Crime and Punishment
Shot Caller's Vivid Look at Crime and Punishment
Local director Ric Roman Waugh offers a brutal look at the penal system

Aug. 18, 2017


Other Worlds Austin, Bear Fonté, Science fiction, Reconnoiter

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)