It is the 23rd century and 95% of the population lives below the poverty line, but there is money to be made for those who dare to take the dangerous offworld jobs. Slipstreaming is the name for the transit process, mediated by the surgically attached Apex device, allowing instantaneous transference to distant colonies and outposts.
Scheduled to slipstream out, Whit Carmichael (former Neighbours star Daniel MacPherson) has promised his wife he will be home that night, but something has happened to the returning team who open fire immediately upon arrival. Pinned down by gunfire, the only way out for Whit and his team is to slipstream off the grid to the outpost Infini, the same destination the berserk team have just left.
Unable to contain the incident and unable to risk spreading infection, the West Coast Slipstream station is destroyed with all personnel inside. Under the command of Captain Seet Johanson (Muriel’s Wedding’s Kevin Copeland), the East Coast Team is assigned as search and rescue for any survivors but only as a secondary mission.
A deep freeze world of intense time dilation, the energy production facility on Infini was the site of the worst ever space disaster with the loss of 1,600 lives, but there is a biomatter payload ready to be slipstreamed back to Earth; should it arrive in an unstable form the resulting detonation would be devastating, and preventing that is the primary task.
While the opening scenes of overlapping voices and lens flare overkill seem calculated to disorient the viewer and much of it plays like a videogame rather than a feature film, Infini wears its influences unashamedly. Deep space disasters have been seen in Pandorum, Supernova and Event Horizon, the Lewis and Clark being specifically designated as a rescue vessel, and while those are all present the film owes more to the Alien films.
The interface with the central computer is virtually a recreation of the Nostromo’s Mother, the debriefing/planning takes place in command centre modelled after the equivalent area of Hadley’s Hope, the vast ventilations fans once spun in the refinery of Fiorina 161 and Brian Cachia’s score channels James Horner’s Aliens, presumably easier to orchestrate than Jerry Goldsmith’s more abstract soundtrack for Alien.
Beyond the graphics of cellular assimilation and the description of “the perfect organism” reminding of The Thing and, yet again, Alien, there are elements from more surprising sources, Solaris and James S A Corey’s novel Leviathan Wakes, soon to be televised as The Expanse. Interestingly, though abandoned early in pre-production, the “galactic transporter” was one of Gene Roddenberry’s concepts for Star Trek The Next Generation before the dramatic necessity of a starship overrode the notion.
Seen as an homage to these innumerable forbearers, the work of Infini’s production team is admirable and the result is actually better than it has any right to be, though conversely the budget for art direction should have been minimal as all the design work has been appropriated from other films.
Written and directed by Shane Abbess, while far from perfect and with numerous inconsistencies (the meticulous and neatly maintained medical records of the crisis, the question of how can matter be transmitted faster than the speed of light but not messages, and of how the outposts were built in the first place if only organic matter can be slipstreamed?) the film is sufficiently entertaining to sidestep these quibbles.
When, inevitably, the infection takes hold of the rescue team the fight scenes initially become tiresome, but beyond that phase the film once again becomes interesting, the survivors fighting to retain their personality even as the protocol struggles to bend them to its will. Here many of the cast demonstrate they are far stronger performers than their limited screen time would suggest, and alongside Mad Max: Fury Road it is good to see that homegrown Australian cinema using the facilities which Hollywood productions have taken tax incentivised advantage of for years.