The nostalgia bomb strikes again in The Vast of Night, an ode to 1950s science fiction through the cornball Americana lens of 1980s Spielberg. There’s no doubt that rookie director Andrew Patterson has some tricks up his sleeve, however, resulting in an ambitiously-crafted Twilight Zone yarn.
In a small New Mexico town circa the space-race era, an otherworldly sound pops up over the local airwaves, enticing two technologically-advanced youths. Fay, a switchboard operator, and Everett, a radio DJ, spend all night investigating the origin, hearing wild tales of lights in the sky from callers who hint at what’s going on.
As Fay and Everett rush all over their quiet neighborhood in a frantic chase for answers, the camera follows suit, employing some truly jaw-dropping movements and long takes, including a mid-film set piece that zooms throughout the entire town in order to get from one character to another. There’s also a sense of Altman in the way the camera weaves through crowded environments as the rapid-fire dialogue competes with the constant murmur of the surroundings.
Patterson has prior commercial experience, lending the film a slickness that masks its independent nature. Yet for all the thrilling style, it’s in service of a story that’s ultimately kind of rote. It builds a ton of anticipation for a climax that never really arrives and the mystery peters out past the midway point, making the whole thing start to feel a little one-note.
It’s certainly a calling card film for the ages though.
- Release Date: 9/12/2019