An Interesting But Ultimately Polarising Experiment
Fronting as a fictional documentary, The Beyond is an interesting Indie experiment that’s likely to polarise many people because of its unique style. With a lack of a protagonist to get behind and a passive story riddled with unanswered questions, The Beyond is not without its problems but the original story and hard sci-fi angle certainly raise some interesting thematic questions around our attitude toward the unknown which is compelling enough to see you through until the final credits.
The story begins with the piercing wail of an air-raid siren. After a blur of rapid images showcasing the military pointing their guns at an unknown object in the sky, the film shifts back in time 12 months and introduces us to Gillian Laroux (Jane Perry), a scientist whose called back to work by the Space Agency where it’s revealed a strange void has appeared above our planet. In a bid to discover what this is and what it means for our species, Gillian, with the help of her talented colleagues, agree to fast-track their experimental procedure dubbed “Humans 2.0”.
The risky experiment involves transferring a conscious brain into a synthetic body and it’s this that remains the focal point for much of the film’s run time. What transpires from here is a journey that skips between face to face interviews and real-time footage to show the process, experiment and the resulting voyage into the void before a climactic ending leaves plenty of questions unanswered.
The documentary format of The Beyond is both the film’s strongest and weakest point. The unique perspective radiates fatigue – the found footage and handheld camera genres have long been run into the ground – but the way The Beyond blurs the line between reality and fiction through its use of scientific terms and traditional stylistic nods does help to hide some of these issues. The jarring edits mid-interview, the clunky extreme close-ups and hand-held shaky cameras that feel unprofessionally shot all lean heavily toward this over-saturated genre but there’s a reasonably good balance here to avoid it falling into cliched territory.
If there’s one part of the film that The Beyond excels in it’s the visual effects. There’s nothing out of place here and whether it be the various shots of space, the CGIed phenomenon floating ominously in the sky or the synthetic human itself, every part of the aesthetic has been meticulously crafted to great effect. It’s a shame then that the lack of a protagonist to really get behind and any sort of meaningful drama hold the film back from being as good as it could be. Given how interesting the concept is, the idea to passively showcase this from a documentary style rather than through the eyes of the synthetic/human hybrid does feel a bit of a missed opportunity.
The Beyond is a film that’s relies heavily on its unconventional format and in doing so, may well turn many away from this hard-sci film. Despite its impressive special effects and a flurry of surprising plot developments late on, anyone outside the realm of hard sci-fi are likely to find it difficult to really get invested in this one. The lack of a protagonist to root for and a story completely void (no pun intended) of drama and emotion give this a somewhat passive viewpoint and because of that the reception to this Indie flick is likely to be mixed at best. Still, there’s enough here to make this a slow-burn, interesting ride but be prepared for unanswered questions and some patience during the slower moments.