Despite an intriguing setup, VOYAGERS (2021) can’t seem to nail the execution

Written and directed by Neil Burger, Voyagers is a sci-fi thriller following a crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission to colonise a new planet. However, when they begin to act on their suppressed impulses, all hell begins to break loose. With a talented cast and an intriguing premise, Voyagers sets itself up to be potentially great!

When the narrative kicks off, introducing the situation at hand and the relevant characters, it seems like everything is going right – there’s even a solid amount of clever foreshadowing sprinkled throughout. The first act sets up the story with plenty of intrigue as to where things are going to go. There’s a quite eerie tone that slowly builds through this first act, one which makes the most of the claustrophobic atmosphere to put the audience on edge. There’s not too much lengthy exposition, rather everything is being introduced in a pretty succinct and rapid way. The issues begin when the main arc involving Tye Sheridan’s Christopher and Fionn Whitehead’s Zac begins to take off. It feels like a lot of the tension is lost through the second act. Things seem a little silly and it’s like a major departure from the tense mystery of the first act. Some of the story decisions don’t work in the film’s favour and it really lost me through the middle of the movie.

Thankfully, as things begin to build to the climax, the quality picks back up and the tension is reinstated. It feels like the setup is paid off in these final moments as it actually gets quite tense again. Some of the action is ramped up and it closes out in a relatively satisfying way. Overall, the narrative hits a number of familiar beats that have been seen before in many space thrillers, but there are also some sparks of originality throughout. There are some neat little messages and themes that are handled quite well – as in they’re not force-fed through long narrative sequences. It’s nothing game-changing but it adds another layer to the story, strengthening the film overall.

When it comes to the cast, it’s an impressive lineup. The biggest star is obviously Colin Farrell, who plays the man guiding the young voyagers on their journey. He is the one who really elevates the film, especially in the first act where every single line he delivers is just great. The tension is heightened whenever he speaks because of how locked in he is to the role. Then there’s Tye Sheridan and Lily-Rose Depp who are overall great in the film. Both of them had to grow on me while watching. Initially I wasn’t really on board with either of their characters as they both felt quite shallow in how they were written. Although, as time goes on they really do come into their own and carry the bulk of the latter half.

On the other side of the spectrum, Fionn Whitehead is an actor who I’ve liked in his other roles – however I feel like he overcooked it a bit here. Part of it may certainly be the writing, but he just went too far in a certain direction to even be able to find his character enjoyable to watch. I mentioned that the middle of the film really began to falter and part of it is due to the life that this character sucks out of most scenes. Perhaps if his portrayal was a bit more subtle it could have worked out.

Lastly, the visuals are pretty damn great. There’s not much in terms of space imagery, but for what there is it’s quite well done. It’s shot in a way that emphasises the claustrophobic nature of being trapped in the corridors of a space station – bringing out some classic Alien vibes in the process. Trevor Gureckis‘ accompanying score serves the claustrophobic nature well but is unfortunately not all that memorable.

In the end, Voyagers shows great promise in its early moments and features some well-earned payoff, but just can’t hold the tension and intrigue through much of the second act. The performances from Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan and Lily-Rose Depp carry the bulk of the film – servicing the emotional weight of some moments and the overall entertainment factor. When it comes to quality sci-fi space thrillers, Voyagers is by no means near the top of the list, but it’s a somewhat entertaining ride that’s burdened by the fact that it drifts so far off-track that the satisfying close can’t save it in its entirety.

5.6/10

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