45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Pure art, pure science, no artificial ingredients.
, 16 Sept. 2004
This review is from: The Andromeda Strain [DVD]  (DVD)
People expecting a sci-fi film of the James Cameron ("guns are fun") variety, will be either disappointed, or find their horizons pleasantly expanded. This film is, to my mind anyway, the most realistic portrayal of what might happen if we really did come across alien life. The acting, camera work, soundtrack and highly realistic sets (no cardboard here, and all the equipment you see existed in real life) add to its unique athmosphere of trepidation and creeping paranoia, as the microscopic but extremely contageous and destructive lifeform is discovered and carefully examined. The alien lifeform is satisfyingly alien and unlike anything conceivable on Earth. The science is suffiently meaty and substantial to satisfy any geek --no airy pseudo-scientific babble here, and the whole film manages to avoid descending into simple schlock-horror.
People have commented on a lack of plausibility of the slow Government response to the alien threat, the illogical selection of scientists and the possible suggestion (which eludes me, actually) that the microscopic lifeform might have some form of intelligence ("how can a microbe be intelligent?" Well, ever hear of collective intelligence?). But to me, the unpreparedness, miscalculation and inconsistency with which the government and scientific bodies respond, despite the fact that they thought they had prepared for this eventuality, sounds scarily true-to-life to me. So do the mishaps that cause mistakes and miscommunication at vital moments. And when you are confronted with an incident like this, who you gonna call?
People have also commented on the lack of glamour and charisma of the main characters. Well, we are talking real geeks here, and to my mind they are far more credible than the eponimous double-D cupped 25 year old pouty blonde who just happens to be a brilliant scientific authority on exo-biological physics, or the war-decorated, tanned, athletic he-man who, inbetween his career as a test pilot, also happens to dabble in nuclear physics a fair bit. Yeah, right... Closer to the truth is that real top-scientists, the driven, obsessive geeks who put in the hours to become foremost authorities in their field, tend to be not so tanned, not so athletic, not so groomed, and perhaps not so abundant in people skills. And that is what is portrayed here.
The film was shot in 1971 and this, of course, shows in its style. It is almost presented as a documentary however, and is best viewed as a hypothetical account of Earth coming in contact with alien life in that time period, and how it dealt with it. The conclusion to some is a bit contrived and disappointing, but to me again a scarily realistic portrayal of how we, despite our "preparedness" and scientific cleverness, tend to survive the big crises that threaten humanity almost through pure dumb luck in the end.
In short, Director Robert Wise refused to give in to Hollywood formula and made an artful, realistic portrayal of a darn good book. The story is what matters. This film, I do not hesitate to say, is art. Ignore the cheesy (irrelevant) cover illustration on the DVD. Watch the film.
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