The Andromeda Strain Review

Alien-like disasters are not as common as films would make them out to be. A sad shame for those hoping for an apocalypse to come crashing down so they can hunker down in their bunkers like John Goodman did in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Robert Wise had his pulse on uncomfortable reckonings and eerie awakenings. Whether it was the chilling tales spun in the Boris Karloff-led The Body Snatcher or the miserably musical West Side Story, he always knew what made an audience tick and, crucially, why it did so. He implements that well within The Andromeda Strain, an excessive piece of science-fiction horror that features brave idiots and cowardly, intelligent survivors. It all plays out like a strange bit of newsreel, with locations and times scattered across the narrative with no care for consistency.

It is the greatest asset Wise can introduce to the usual moments founded in the science-fiction genre. Suited military men looking stern and concerned as they fire up the “we never thought we’d have to do this” stare and the actions that follow. The Andromeda Strain feels cold and rightly so. Running the gauntlet of relatively interesting shot choreography and mood-setting moments, the work from Wise is solid. He caters to the needs of each character accordingly. A brooding scene here, a moment of severity between a doctor and his wife. All of those moments that every slight disaster feature desires, only effectively shown and thrown out in the opening act. Top secrecy and acts of extremity from senators and government officials are the norm, and they’re exciting.

Reasons of national security stop the outsiders from getting in, but then the whole focus of The Andromeda Strain is the hellfire and worry that goes on behind the scenes when accidents like this happen. Arthur Hill and David Wayne are solid in their respective roles, never quite overcoming the clean-cut hairstyles and stuffy suits of the times. At least some characters can cut through the usual humdrum requirements of the stuffy era of political football. Kate Reid is the star of the show, a fantastic performance from her gives the film a rebellious know-it-all that it desperately needs. The rest of this supergroup is assembled without much fanfare, and their worries bleed into one another with little direction beyond being needed away from their usual job.

At least when the group gets together Wise knows not to squander it. He has taken the opportunity of big brains and the tensions between them relatively well. But there are only so many times Wise can hide behind the shroud of “reasons of national security” and the effect is lost after the first few times it is used. A smokescreen if there ever was one, mainly used to cover up some sloppy writing here or there. With good characters at the heart of it all, there are at least an ample number of interesting scenes and panicked faces to make The Andromeda Strain a fair and engaging piece of thrilling sci-fi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s