Starring Alex Sharp, Gillian Anderson, David Strathairn, Ella Purnell and Ben Beatty
Written and Directed by Ryan Eslinger
There are so many things about this movie that caught my attention. I am a huge fan of Gillian Anderson from The X-Files forward. I love seeing David Strathairn on-screen from The Bourne movies to Good Night and Good Luck. I love alien conspiracy stories and films like Arrival. So I was pretty excited to see a film that featured these elements.
Then I watched UFO.
UFO centers on Derek (Alex Sharp), a smart college student studying math. I’ve had a lukewarm relationship with the subject of math my entire life and I can tell you this movie made me actually hate math by the end of it. Derek loves math. In fact, math is all Derek talks about. Derek can’t have a conversation with anyone from his girlfriend Natalie (Emma Purnell) to his seemingly one and only friend Lee (Ben Beatty) without interrupting with a math lesson delivered in a tone that signifies that he thinks everyone is a raging moron. He is so condescending that you don’t care what he’s discovered. You either want him to shut up or get hit by a bus.
A UFO appears over an airport and there are witnesses. David Strathairn plays Franklin Ahls from Homeland Security. He’s investigating the incident in the slowest, most boring way imaginable. He and his crack team of forgettables make the airport spokesman lie about what he saw and this prompts Derek to get involved. He knows there is a cover up and he is going to uncover the truth. Why? Who the hell cares. Obviously the writer/director doesn’t because he paced this film to be such a pedantic slog that anything that could potentially be nuance is washed away in a sea of boring, math-based exposition with no context to anything either interesting or revelatory.
Derek insults everyone around him with his condescension including his professor Dr. Hendricks (Gillian Anderson) who seems to be the only person willing to put up with him for longer than five minutes. Anderson is so utterly wasted in this film that every time she shows up on-screen there is the feeling that something could potentially happen that is interesting, but ultimately nothing does.
What makes this film even worse is that NOTHING HAPPENS!! Ahls finds out Derek is researching the event. So what does he do? He has software installed on Derek’s webcam to watch him and plants weed in his apartment. Why? Is it to discredit Derek? Is it meant to use his research to further their investigation? Who knows. None of this is ever revisited or discussed again. Derek goes to Hendricks for help finally and they stay up all night discussing his research. Why? So that she can confirm another math revelation that is boring. Where the film ultimately fails beyond characters you care nothing about, stiff plotting, poor story and pacing is the final act in which, you guessed it, NOTHING HAPPENS!!!
I swear I wished that someone in Derek’s life from Hendricks to Natalie to even Lee’s useless ass would turn out to be an alien so that something in this experience would have been worth the time it took to watch this film. At least that would have been something. It wouldn’t have saved this boring, self-important snooze fest, but it would have been something.