The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Robert Wise directs James Olson, Arthur Hill and Kate Reid in this sci-fi thriller where a group of scientists in an underground lab try to isolate and investigate an alien virus before it wipes out humanity, based on a Michael Crichton book.

First things first; The Andromeda Strain is a very dry film. Sensationalist in its apocalyptic subject matter, bland and level headed in its delivery. The fascination here is with the documentation and procedure around experimenting with a deadly intergalactic spore. If it were made in this century it would no doubt be a found footage movie. Like nearly all of Crichton’s airport novels, his hook is taking a technological advance into nightmarish realms. Jurassic Park took DNA breakthroughs and created a dinosaur theme park disaster, Discolsure explored the tattered privacy of the corporate world where tiny mobile phones and VR shared networks would be the norm. He tugs at the near future and spins a gripping yarn from its potential. Most of the excitement from The Andromeda Strain isn’t from it ho-hum set-pieces or its one dimensional characters (Kate Reid’s dumpy pessimist excepted), it is from watching elaborately imagined technology be believably utilised against the ticking clock. The hive lab, the robot arms, laser security system… it all has an eyecatching sheen, yet isn’t a million miles from where manmade inventions in reality have taken us. Not the most fun slice of doomsday prevention, but a solid, often prescient, one.

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