Have Cheetah,Will View #152 – “Approaching the Unknown” (2016)

It’s 10:25 am
getting ready to snow

I love anthology series. The Twilight Zone and its reboots,Night Gallery and The Outer Limits,I love ’em all. There is new series from Great Britain called “Black Mirror” that is currently all the rage now.  Movies anthology films are also some of my favorite,in fact the cheetah and I have even reviewed one which you can read here.
Sometimes someone will attempt to take a story more fitting as a short story and try to stretch it out to a full length film,often this leads to a bit of a creative mess. “Approaching the Unknown” is one of these films. What could have been a interesting story in a shorter format fitted for TV is inside stretched out in a confusing story that doesn’t know where it wants to take the viewer.


Air Force captain William Stanaforth (Mark Strong) has created a process that squeeze water out of dirt and built a reactor to harness the water. He has tested it in the harsh desert where he put his life on the line in a gamble to prove his theory and machine works.  He comes close to dying but manages to get his reactor to work.
With this knowledge,he volunteers for a one man mission to Mars to hopefully help pave the way for a colony. Mars doesn’t have water as we know it but with Stanaforth’s reactor,that could change.
There are already food and other supplies on the planet,Stanaforth will take 270 days to reach the surface and Captain Emily Maddox is following right behind him.
The launch goes well and all is well as William stays in touch with his friend Louis “Skinny” Skinner (Luke Wilson) who is working in mission control.

William conducts several experiments with plant life using his reactor. Even when there a spot of trouble,he is able to troubleshoot it.
In flashbacks we see how William created the process and how he passed out and almost died before making his creation work.
William stops are a  station deep in space where the crew seems in a bad mental state in order to pick up supplies,this will be his chance to talk live with another person for almost 200 days,that is when Maddox is scheduled to join him on Mars.
Back on track and things start to slowly south…Maddox is blown off course,while William is able (over Skinny’s objections) to talk Maddox through a repair job,it doesn’t hold and she is forced to abort her mission and go home.

When the reactor breaks down,William makes a critical error that could spell doom for him and his mission….alone in space with supplies running low,can this astronaut overcome the odds to reach Mars and become the first of a new breed of pioneer?

Watching this movie was strange. Because what you are watching isn’t something you can trust. The cheetah and I have our theory of what really happens but writer-director Mark Elijah Rosenberg,whose story is foggy,does appears to lay enough clues as to what will happen to Captain Stanaforth.
The only thing is,we already sort of knew 5 minutes into the story. It’s like watching “The Village”,as soon as you meet Bryce Dallas Howard’s blind woman,you already knew the ending. I suppose the hook to keep you watching is the acting and if you are a Mark Strong fan,then I would recommend this film,for everyone else,I would say “meh”,its doesn’t rate a trip to the litterbox but I wouldn’t rush out to buy this either unless it pops up for a 1.50 like our copy did.

Luke Wilson and Sanaa Lathan (as Maddox) have barely any screen time at all,Wilson appears to be bored silly honestly. But Strong is very good as Stanaforth who only wants to help make a difference in one of the most extreme ways possible.
The other thing that really hurts “Approaching the Unknown” is that is rated “R” when in fact,it should have been edited to fit a PG-13 rating,Stanaforth says a couple of cusswords and the film gets slapped with a “R”,Rosenberg should have just cut those words out.
The run time is only 82 minutes as well and considering the story,easily could have been cut down to a hour….and making it fit into a Dark Mirror episode.

While we like Strong’s performance,the cheetah and I both gave “Approaching the Unknown” a thumbs/paw down.

What do you think of anthologies? Which one is your favorite? Drop us a comment below and share your favorite!

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