Synopsis: When a tragic accident cuts short the first manned mission to explore life on the moons of Jupiter, Michael Forrest must make the 3 year journey home to Earth in pure solitude.
Tagline: How far will man go to discover life?
Release Date: February 13th, 2012 | MPAA Rating: Unrated (but I’d say PG) | Coolthulhus Earned: 4
Watch the Astronaut: The Last Push trailer here.
Astronaut: The Last Push Review
If I were going to describe Astronaut: The Last Push in just a few sentences I would say: “The Martian, but with an African American Watney, no snark, and shot in one room.” I also wouldn’t be doing it justice with that description, either. Khary Payton does a great job making us believe in the plight of Michael Forrest as he faces the reality of spending 3 years trapped in a room you’re only meant to spend a few hours in at most. From his sane acceptance of the situation to inevitably losing hope and the turnabout that comes later he sells it.
Just the expression his face speaks volumes. You can watch the life drain out of him and insanity takes its place. When he starts having hallucinations, your stomach clenches. He deals with everything so realistically that you can’t help but root for him. The way he plays the character isn’t the role of the strong macho man, but of a perfectly believable man who is stuck in an unbelievable situation. He does everything he can to stay sane and not go off like the ticking time bomb any of us would be. When he finally does lose it, it’s kind of a relief both for the viewer and for him.
One of the things that make it interesting is, I think, the lack of snark. Mark Watney was a *likeable* character. He was a smart-mouthed geek who kept you in stitches even as he battled for survival. You instinctively liked him and cheered him on. Michael Forrest is the complete opposite. He’s quiet, awkward, and at times sullen. When seen next to his crewmate (who dies minutes in), it’s easy to expect that it’s going to be like fun one that survives. You would think “Surely it won’t be the other guy. It’ll be boring!” But it’s not boring. Not even a little bit.
This is not really as much of a sci-fi movie as it is a study of the effect of almost complete isolation on the human mind. Michael Forrest can exchange recorded messages back and forth with earth, but he can’t even carry on a real-time conversation. He’s stuck for three years on the ship with one book, one game, and no music or digital media to entertain him. Can you imagine how easily so many of us would go absolutely crazy?
And I gotta give the director props. First off: Black actor! Holy crap, look at that, it’s not only white men who get stuck in survivalist scenarios in the movies! Also, while there was the requisite bare tushie scene, it wasn’t done for comedy. And Forrest’s character didn’t go full on crazy hair and beard. He had an electric razor on board and used it religiously. It’s little things, but when there’s a deviation from the standard in these types of movies, it’s to be celebrated.
Overall, while it’s definitely a low-budget film, it’s surprisingly well-shot and well-acted. Khary Payton delivers a fantastic performance that kept me glued to the screen from start to finish. I normally have the attention span of a gnat. It takes a lot to drag me away from my need to have lots of action (and blood guts and gore). So the fact that this movie kept me engaged the entire time is almost unbelievable.
And that ending…didn’t expect that ending.