Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"It's a great set-up for dealing with big concepts on a low budget but it really depends on strong performances, and here it struggles."

Seven is a magic number. Numerous studies, collated by NASA when they first started thinking about sending people on four years trips to Mars and back, show that groups of seven are the stablest human unit, minimising the risk of squabbles and social disintegration. That's presumably why the heroes of this film, although they're told there are thousands of survivors like them, have been connected in a group of just seven. The trouble is, Orlando (Kevin Sizemore) is an insufferable dick, so they decide to cut off his communication with them. Perhaps that's why things are going wrong. Perhaps that's why the network seems to be breaking down, and why another member of the group disappears.

Perhaps, perhaps. The trouble is, this little group of survivors - each member physically isolated for safety reasons - doesn't have much information. They watched the news about the viral outbreaks on TV, they took part in the lottery, then they spent seven years living like this, with a (clearly inadequate) artificial light cycle and food that emerges from a portal in the wall and exercise machines to keep them in a tolerable state of health. Given that they're in their thirties and expect to be isolated for another 20 years, it's not clear what they're being preserved for - there seems to be little hope of saving the species here, and they're not exactly finding their imprisonment pleasant. Two have embarked on a tentative romance but it's difficult when there's no real privacy. One seeks solace in prayer but can't overcome her ongoing pain over the loss of her three small children. Everybody has secrets. One guy can move his fingers across his keyboard very fast in movie code for the magic known as hacking, but he's unable to find out a great deal. There are no intellectual heavyweights here, just scared people asking questions with no idea how to answer them.

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It's a great set-up for dealing with big concepts on a low budget but it really depends on strong performances, and here it struggles. Sonja Sohn and Britt Lower are fairly good but the others don't succeed in giving their thinly written characters much personality, so we don't feel as scared for them as we should. It doesn't help that they have been allowed no personal expression in their clothes or their rooms, which resemble nothing so much as old Babylon 5 sets. This is one of a number of curious details that will leave viewers wondering if the film has been badly researched or if its heroes' predicament is really something quite different.

It's always difficult for films like this to take the next step after the central mystery is resolved. Domain maintains the tension fairly well in the early stages of this process, and although it fizzles out later, too obvious to shock, there are some poignant moments when we learn more about group members' pasts. Sometimes it's what is taken for granted here that is most disturbing.

A high concept piece that falls short of its aims, Domain nevertheless captures a certain kind of science fiction mood well enough that it's bound to find an appreciative audience.

Reviewed on: 27 Sep 2018
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Seven people living in post-Apocalypse survival bunkers keep in touch through a computer network. Panic ensues when part of the system goes down and then people start to disappear.

Director: Nathaniel Atcheson

Writer: Nathaniel Atcheson

Starring: Britt Lower, Ryan Merriman, William Gregory Lee, Nick Gomez, Sonja Sohn, Kevin Sizemore, Cedric Sanders

Year: 2017

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


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