Prospect is the story of a young woman (Sophie Thatcher) and her father (Jay Duplass), who make their living discovering and harvesting a rare and fragile mineral. Taking place at unknown time in the distant future, the family team is just scraping by and to make matter worse they crash land during their latest expedition. As the two navigate a physically hostile planet, they must contend with their differing priorities, inhabitants of the world they find themselves on, and rival prospectors led by the enigmatic and unpredictable Ezra (Pedro Pascal).
What works in Prospect is deliberation and Pascal’s presence. The writing and directing team of Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl have created their own universe, filled with laws, languages, customs, and social norms that will feel alien to audience members who are purposefully dropped into the proceedings without context or explanation. The slow burn of revelation is delightfully taut and intriguing—Prospect demands rapt attention to the carefully constructed dialogue and actions among the players. Caldwell and Earl should be lauded for constructing a thriller that feels both foreign and familiar as they take foundational themes of human motivation and layer upon them intriguing and creative technology and culture.
As Prospect very carefully unfolds, Pascal uses Ezra to create a wonderful counterbalance to the proceedings. His character speaks at a pace far surpassing the speed of the narrative, and his matter-of-fact logic espoused with gleeful prose is a delightful beacon in the middle of the toxic wasteland he finds himself in. Pascal’s take on a roguish scoundrel is refreshingly free of tropes, and through the consistent subversion of expectations, he will keep watchers guessing what he will do next. Prospect is proof that Pedro Pascal’s energy, presence, and the ability to work with both dramatic and comedic sequences, have poised him to become a lead with the ability to carry a franchise sometime in the near future.
While Prospect benefits from a charismatic lead and a novel concept, some audience members may feel the displacement detracts from the overall experience. Caldwell and Zeek simply expect that viewers will catch-up and learn as they go, unapologetically leaving their film devoid of exposition. Minds will quickly fill up with questions, most of which will never be answered, mimicking a variety of a plot threads that never receive resolution. This type of storytelling divides. While there are plenty who enjoy such world building and exploration, there exists an equal amount who decry the imposed confusion.
Prospect is a rarity today—a low budget innovative science fiction tale that relies on character development over flashy effects. Caldwell and Zeek use tension and the unknown to engage audiences, a style that may not please all, but works effectively on those who appreciate this particular brand of yarn spinning.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Recommended if you liked: Annihilation, Moon, True Grit