Solitary in Space
When satellite photos of Jupiter appear to show life NASA sets forth with a planned robot mission. That isn't enough for entrepreneur Walter Moffitt (Lance Henriksen) who privately funds a manned mission to Jupiter which will take many years with the 2 man crew placed under deep sleep for the duration of the journey. But then disaster strikes and the only survivor is Michael (Khary Payton) who through his daily recordings keeps in touch with control as he makes the long journey back, having to try and repair the shot electrics in order to make an important thrust at the right moment.
What has Tom Hanks and Khary Payton got in common? Well Hanks starred in two movies, one about space travel and one about being stranded alone on an island whilst Payton has starred in a movie which essentially combines the two with a space mission which sees him ending up all alone in space and in a small room where he has to fix a wiring problem to get himself back to Earth. It does make "Astronaut: The Last Push" an almost minimal movie with its limited location, small cast and as such has the potential to bore due to this but for me it was captivating.
Now for the most "Astronaut: The Last Push" focuses on Michael and how he copes with years of being alone in such a small space. We see how initially he is the consummate professional to the point he is humourless before the disaster strikes despite his crew mate, admirably played by James Madio, being more humourless. But we see how over time he is worn down by the routine of the day and the flavoured paste he has to consume to survive. We see how he tries to prevent any connection with anything which might cause an emotional response and of course that amount of isolation does cause a touch of madness as he starts seeing and hearing things.
But "Astronaut: The Last Push" is not all about the madness of isolation and we have some exceptionally well worked drama where Michael has to try and repair the wiring, stretching blindly in to the recesses to test one wire after another. The whole thing builds to create frustration for Michael as every time he tries it doesn't work to correct the issue. But on top of that we have drama when the power dies and the temperature drops putting Michael in grave danger of freezing to death.
Now there are other actors in this movie, Lance Henriksen is the millionaire backer but this movie belongs to Khary Payton who delivers one captivating performance, a performance of few words but one which speaks volumes through his mannerisms. Payton genuinely manages to evolve his character in the subtlest of ways so by the end of the movie the character of Michael has gone through a transformation. But whilst Payton is the star of the movie the whole production be it the cinematography or special effects combine to make "Astronaut: The Last Push" a captivating experience.
What this all boils down to is that "Astronaut: The Last Push" won't be for everyone as it is a minimal movie and one which is more about a man stuck in space rather than space fantasy. But for me it was captivating, drawing me in to this situation with a character evolving over time with a simple problem to create so much drama and atmosphere.