Thumb’s Up: The Vast of Night
Posted On August 6, 2020
This was pretty good.
It’s a slow-burn mystery set in small-town New Mexico way back in the lost golden age of the 1950s.
The plot revolves around a technically literate high-school girl – one who feels organically smart rather than performatively so because screw you manbabies – and a street-smart DJ who stumbled onto some strange doings while the rest of town is pre-occupied with a high-school basketball game. Yeah, it’s aliens, but the mystery remains, and the limitations of 1950s tech and social rules are played up to perfection.
As mentioned, it is a little slow. At times it feels like a 45-minute episode of TV stretched out to fill a full 90-minute timeslot. Or perhaps the better analogy would be one of those old low-budget sci-fi thrillers that pads things out to cover for a thin concept and lack of funds. Where those rely on grinding montages, this one at least makes the couple of montages interesting by zooming quietly about a still night and segueing into crowd scenes with a single take that impresses from a technical standpoint.
Offset against that are some fantastic performances, and snappy dialogue that whips about with reckless abandon. It does so much right, that it is easy to look past what it does wrong. In a lot of ways it conveys the feeling of a radio-play, heavy on the dialogue and interviews to convey exposition, but again it is so well written that you won’t notice until the final curtain.
Or maybe it’s just that I watched it with my nose buried in miniature wargame figures. Hey, if you want to watch something fascinating while you bury your nose in a project, this movie is perfect. And if you want to unwind with a quiet little cozy-mystery featuring aliens…it’s great for that, too.
You can watch it here.