Approaching The Unknown is a sci-fi drama focused on an intimate, solo journey of Captain William D. Stanaforth (Mark Strong) on a quest to reach Mars and create a new water source for himself and other future inhabitants. When we say solo journey, we mean it. His primary source of communication is via a few screens in his ship that link him to Louis Skinner (Luke Wilson) and Captain Emily Maddox (Sanaa Lathan). But the antagonist of the film isn't a life-threatening technological issue involving the spacecraft like so many other space movies... it's water.
The pace of the film is very steady, even stagnant at times, and though there are moments of suspense and awe, most emotive moments are more about self-reflection. The silence that comes with isolation allows for periods of time where the audience is able to marvel at the decision Stanaforth must make about whether to abort his journey. The big question of the film is whether Stanaforth be successful. And while there are root-able successes, the definition of that "success" changes as Stanaforth becomes more and more affected by his quality of life and scare resources. He must reconsider his mission's purpose, and in doing so, further isolates himself... permanently.
One would think that the choice Stanaforth must make would lead to a much more intense climax, but the film's impression on the viewer overall is more flat and steady. His sacrifices and priorities change to be able to find purpose, and yet it is unfulfilling for audiences.
The film should be praised though for its depiction of life in isolation and the self-discipline that is necessary for a solo journey. Strong's depiction of Stanaforth makes him very likable and even heroic. His performance will force audiences to question their own ability to make such a finite commitment.
Approaching the Unknown opens in theaters on June 3. Check out the film's trailer below and be sure to join the conversation on social media: #ApproachingTheUnknown.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQx2eosUlXY&h=500