Review: The Andromeda Strain

DVD: The Andromeda Strain (1971)

A space satellite falls to Earth and lands in Piedmont, New Mexico. Infected with a deadly biological lifeform, the entire population of Piedmont is killed…except for an old homeless man and a 6 month old baby. Contingency plans were already put in place many years prior to this, with the construction of ‘Wildfire’; a secure laboratory led by Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill). Stone and his team try to isolate the alien lifeform, but are constantly on a battle against the clock as it continually mutates. Should it manage to escape the laboratory, the entire population of earth will be infected, and so the nuclear self-destruct mechanism at the laboratory may well have to be used and the scientists sacrifice themselves should it all go wrong.

Based on the novel by Michael Crichton and directed by Robert Wise, The Andromeda Strain unfolds at a sedate pace that may well not appeal to todays audience that is used to quick cuts every few seconds and CGI extravaganza’s where sci-fi monsters battle superheroes across city landscapes.

The ‘monster’ in The Andromeda Strain is a minuscule virus who has to be viewed under a microscope and whose mutation and ever more deadly threat to the planet is seen through crude computer renditions on a low resolution screen. It is testament to the narrative and strong direction by Robert Wise, that minor details are given such gravitas and keep drip feeding into the ever increasing tension as the trapped scientists try to save not only their own lives, but those of everyone on the planet.

This is a movie in which its 130 minutes are not filled with action set pieces (though the end sequence will have you gripping the arms of your chair), or ‘eye candy’ special effects. Its entire running time is a slow burn of characters pushed to their extremes, trying to overcome adversity, and to deal with friendships and relationships that are pushed to the limit under extreme circumstances. The Andromeda Strain is not your typical sic-fi movie, and focuses itself on the human condition.

The Andromeda Strain tells its story at a leisurely pace, but the tension keeps mounting as each minute passes by. Watch and see how YOU would cope in that situation.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.