Dune Drifter


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dune Drifter
"From the outset, Sparrow's work is gripping, even though she has to do most of her acting through a visor." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

One of the best science fiction films of the year, Dune Drifter is an object lesson for all low budget filmmakers. The plot may be simple, the effects work in the opening section may look a bit rough, but the acting is superb and director Marc Price creates a powerful atmosphere. The result punches well above its weight.

We open with a battle. Adler (Phoebe Sparrow) is one of several people flying small, two person spaceships on what is supposed to be a straightforward mission, but when they are ambushed by the enemy, chaos ensues. Crash landing on a nearby planet, Adler manages to set up an emergency survival tent and drag her injured colleague into it, but they have limited oxygen supplies and changing military manoeuvres may lave them without hope of rescue. The only hope comes from an enemy ship which has crashed a few miles away. If Adler can obtain a part from it, she might be able to repair her own ship - but the enemy are bigger, stronger and famously difficult to hurt, and she has virtually nothing to work with.

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From the outset, Sparrow's work is gripping, even though she has to do most of her acting through a visor. We really feel her despair and understand the desperate nature of her situation. Distressing though this is, Adler's determination to keep on fighting for the slenderest of chances makes it impossible not to root for her, and even though familiar genre conveniences are present - from humanoid aliens to guns that miss at all the right times - she makes it easy to suspend disbelief. Price stays close to her throughout so that we never get a break from the struggle, never get a moment to reframe the situation - not that it's easy to find any solutions other than the ones she pursues.

With the odds stacked against Adler at every turn, Dune Drifter will keep you on the edge of your seat. Adam Langston's score is orders of magnitude better than what one would normally expect from a small genre film, and significantly enhances the action. Price makes fantastic use of a bleak, gravelly landscape, using simple effects and smart shot choices to make it look genuinely alien.

The spaceship design follows in the footsteps of Alien: mechanical, practical, with no flashy design elements - built to last. This is a film that will resonate as well in 30 years' time as it does today.

Today, few directors seem to know when stripping back and paring down their films will give them greater impact. Dune Drifter is a lean and hungry piece of work. it's a fantastic calling card for Price and Adler and the success it has enjoyed on the festival circuit is well deserved. If you have any love for genre work at all, or if you're a filmmaker yourself, you should make certain not to miss it.

Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2020
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Dune Drifter packshot
When a trainee pilot and her mortally wounded gunner are shot down, they crash land on a nearby planet. An enemy craft offers the chance of spare parts to fix her ship, but then she spots another survivor - an enemy alien soldier with no intention of letting her escape.

Director: Marc Price

Writer: Marc Price

Starring: Phoebe Sparrow, Daisy Aitkens, Simon Dwyer-Thomas, Charlotte Mounter

Year: 2020

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: UK


Frightfest 2020

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