Film Review: Voyagers

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Neil Burger | CAST: Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Chanté Adams, Fionn Whitehead
RELEASE DATE: April 9, 2021
SPECS: PG-13 | 108 min. | Science fiction thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

With the Earth in dire environmental shape, a crew of 30 teenagers and their supervisor (Colin Farrell, Dead Man Down) take off on a rocketship on a mission that will take decades to complete. The goal is to land on a newly discovered planet and inhabit it to save the future of humanity.

Lily-Rose Depp and Tye Sheridan take a trip in Voyagers.

But in Voyagers, the new film written and directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, The Upside), the journey doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. One of the young astronauts discovers that there’s something odd about a drink they are given each day. When it’s discovered that a key ingredient is used to repress sexuality and other urges, crew members revolt, refusing to drink the concoction. Soon, the desire for sex becomes apparent, as does violent behavior. Sides are drawn between friends–the now-dangerously aggressive Zac (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk) and the more grounded Christopher (Tye Sheridan, The Mountain). When both also show a sudden interest in Sela (Lily-Rose Depp, A Faithful Man), a young medical specialist, their animosity threatens the future of the mission and everyone’s lives.

The obvious inspiration for this rumble between young people is Lord of the Flies. And with the possibility of a deadly alien running amuck in the ship, the thought of Alien is obvious, as well. Those are pretty solid sources for a science-fiction story, but Burger’s white, antiseptic spaceship and remote and shallow characters could lull one to sleep, with no space pod necessary. The endless rapid tracking shots of the narrow hallways in the craft may be the filmmaker’s way of building tension, but they just add to the ho-hum vibe of it all. An homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining minus the kid in the toy bike, perhaps?

The filmmaker does do well with an action-packed face-off between Whitehead and Sheridan wherein the combatants are threatened to be sucked through an open hatch and sent
hurling into outer space. Burger should also be applauded for keeping the CGI in check, going for a more intellectual approach to science-fiction. Although shot before the COVID crisis,
Voyagers presents prescient themes about identity, unequivocal allegiance to our leaders and keeping emotions in check.

As far as it being illuminating, exciting or even fresh science-fiction, however, Voyagers is more spaced-out odyssey than space odyssey.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.