Outland (1981)

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The tag line for Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) was “It’s high noon at the end of the universe,” but that tag line should have belonged to Outland.

More of a western than a sci-fi, space epic,  director Peter Hyams serves up a classic western style showdown, only instead of being set in the Arizona desert, this gunfight is going down on a mining colony on one of the moons of Jupiter.

While at first that might seem like an unusual mashing of styles, it works brilliantly in this film. By sticking to a relatively low tech level, the environs presented seem wholly plausible and on target with what we know and can accept as within the realm of possibility, even given the thirty years worth of scientific advancement since this film’s release.

This keeping things simple approach allows for the characters to do all of the work, and that’s where Outland really shines.

Sean Connery is a force as the Marshall hell bent on cleaning up this town. He is a man on a mission and not even his own family is going to stand in the way of his duty. There’s an undercurrent of regret in his performance though that really sells you on the character. What could be seen as a fairly unlikable protagonist benefits from Connery’s performance and when all is revealed, he becomes a hero with whom you can easily sympathise.

Likewise, Frances Sternhagen really stands out and, at times, steals the show. As the colony’s chief medical doctor, she at first finds herself at odds with the marshal. Not intimidated by his “I am the law” attitude, the Doc gives as good as she gets making the scenes between the two great fun to watch.

Of course, no good western ends without a shootout, and the whole thing leads to a High Noon style confrontation complete with a bunch of hired guns arriving by train, or shuttle craft rather as dictates the setting.

While the plot may be familiar to film fans and anyone versed in westerns, the setting and performances make Outland a whole lot fun, and definitely one to add to your watch list.


Outland (1981) — 1 Comment

  1. Another great performance in this film was Peter Boyle as the slimy corporate boss. He had a spotty film career but was great in parts like this (reminded me of his slimy political operative on the Robert Redford film “The Candidate”).

    And interesting trivia, John Ratzenberger was in “Outland.” As Cliff in “Cheers,” of course, his mom was played by Frances Sternhagen.

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