Astronaut’s Wife

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron
Director: Rand Ravich

Ostensibly a psychological suspense thriller THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE is the tale of a young attractive all-American couple, Spencer and Jillian Armacost: he is a space shuttle astronaut, she is a primary school teacher, and their life together seems perfect. However, during a relatively routine mission Spencer and his co-pilot Alex are briefly left stranded in space when NASA loses contact with them for two minutes. When the shuttle lands back on Earth the astronauts are unconscious and in need of hospital treatment. Fortunately both men appear to make a full recovery and Spencer reveals to his wife that after this latest incident he is going to forgo his career as an astronaut in favour of an executive position with an aircraft manufacturer based in Manhattan. Jillian accepts this and all seems well although she is slightly perturbed by her husband?s refusal to say what happened during the ?lost? two minutes.

The Armacost?s start to build a new life in Manhattan bolstered by the discovery that Jillian is pregnant with twins. However, her joy is tempered by a meeting with Sherman Reese, one of Spencer?s former NASA colleagues. Reese makes outlandish claims: saying that he has unearthed chilling facts regarding Spencer?s final aborted mission, and in particular the ?lost? two minutes. As a result of this Jillian is left questioning whether the husband she is now living with is the same person he was before his stratospheric accident?.

The central premise of ?The Astronaut?s Wife? borrows heavily from Roman Polanski?s ROSEMARY’S BABY ? a young pregnant wife in Manhattan wondering if she?s going mad or whether her husband and unborn baby really are far more sinister than appearances suggest. Further intrigue is promised by the addition of some CAPRICORN ONE style space-age subterfuge. The result, unfortunately, is over-stylised and lacking in convincing suspense.

First-time writer/director Rand Ravich is seemingly more concerned with impressing with his camera angles and lighting than he is with the storyline, which asks the audience to be convinced by a plot that is never fully explained. A successful suspense film needs to withhold sufficient information from the audience to keep them guessing whilst also drip-feeding enough hints and red herrings so they have something to focus their dread and anticipation on. THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE, however, has a plot full of holes, a bad guy who is not bad enough, and it never makes clear what the ?terrifying? denouement may be.

To indicate the change in Spencer?s character, Sherman Reese tells Jillian that since he returned from space his signature is almost identical, but not quite. This surmises the problem with Spencer?s character: he changes from Mr Perfect to Mr Maybe-not-quite-perfect; as scary male leads go, he is relatively pleasant, somewhat dull, and slightly more terrifying and sinister than Roger Rabbit. Suspense is further abated by the failure to elucidate on the nature of Spencer?s evil designs. He is purportedly helping to build an aeroplane that will render defence systems immune by blinding their computer detection systems. What use this will be put to is never explained. To help explain an inconsistent plot we are offered cliched nervy conspiracy theorist Sherman Reese, and a lot of tangential mysticism about the number two: a pair of astronauts suffering two lost minutes in space; both of their respective wives are pregnant with twins; Spencer designs a plane for two pilots, etc.

Lacklustre and unconvincing.

4 out of 6 stars

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