A Slow-Burn Sci-Fi Delight
The Vast Of Night is a simple, character-driven sci-fi flick that leans in heavy on its characterisation rather than big sci-fi set pieces. Amazon’s latest film is a real slow burn too and it certainly won’t be for everyone. The abundance of long shots, clever stylistic techniques that enhance the picture and a story that builds up to a dramatic crescendo work incredibly well to invoke the eerie vibe of The Twilight Zone into this film but it also comes at a cost – you need to go into this one with some patience to get to the good stuff.
The story itself revolves around two central characters, charismatic radio DJ Everett and 16 year old switchboard operator Fay. After an impressive 18 minute opener that predominantly revolves around these two discussing their professions across a few tracking shots, the film settles into a consistent rhythm and very slowly starts to build up the tension. When Fay uncovers a weird audio transmission while working, what follows is a descent into sci-fi territory as Everett and Fay struggle to piece together what’s happening to their small town.
The Vast Of Night may not be wholly original with its plot while the simple set design and character-driven screenplay leaves a lot of the heavy lifting up to the actors to prop the narrative up. That’s not a bad thing though and both Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz do a great job in their respective roles. Given the sheer number of long shots – some of which going on for upwards of 7 minutes – the realism they both project in the wake of what’s happening really helps sell the concept.
There are sci-fi elements here though but a lot of this is reserved for the third act of the film when things really start to kick into high gear. The pacing is simple, progressing and growing over time without any dips or valleys, but what’s particularly impressive is the way the camera work and technical elements complement what’s happening in the story.
The long cuts help to paint a portrait of these two young characters and their job, laying the foundations for what’s to come. The second act introduces some lovely tracking shots across the floor that, instead of simple cuts between scenes, give a sense of scale in this small town. The screens fading to black during a caller’s story emphasize the details of speech while the infrequent cuts to a black and white TV screen help to place this in time and feed into that Twilight Zone feel. All of these ideas aren’t just here for stylish reasons either and the fact they play back into the theme of the film is partly the reason this works as well as it does.
Of course, given the art-house feel to this one and the heavy emphasis on dialogue, The Vast Of Night won’t be a film for everyone. At times the dialogue does linger on, while the long shots slow the pace right down to a glacial crawl that may put some people off. Having said that, if you can take to the ideas being presented and go in with some patience, The Vast Of Night rewards your time with a lovely third act that rounds things out nicely and ends things on a high. If you’re in the mood for a creepy and simple sci-fi story, Amazon’s latest film is certainly worth a watch.
Published: 29 May 2020 at 8.45 am on TheReviewGeek.com