400 Days – 2 out of 5
This film came to my attention after reading an article about some original scripts that were produced and we should be more excited about them than anything else coming out (in case you couldn’t guess, this article was written by a smug writer whose arrogant scoffing at everything popular could literally be heard as I read it). The write up about 400 Days caught my attention because they said it was a thriller that featured Dane Cook. While I’m not a fan at all of Cook’s comedy, I was interested to see him in a thriller—especially since the article claimed he was incredible in the film. Well, I checked it out and realized I shouldn’t read anything from that author again—at least not an article that praises a film in order to demonize films that are popular with mass audiences (the whole article was really just him shitting on popular media—I’ll just say it, it was from Cracked.com—those types of articles are their bread and hipster butter).
|The easy joke to make here would be to say, "At least he's not doing his set" |
but instead, let's talk about the weather.
In an attempt to recreate the isolation and hardships of a long space journey, four astronauts are picked for an experiment that will keep them in a fake space shuttle buried beneath the ground. Captain Theo Cooper (Brandon Routh), Dr. Emily McTier (Caity Lotz), Cole Dvorak (Dane Cook) and Bug Kieslowski (Bend Feldman) are chosen but as the days start to tick by, paranoia and hallucinations start to manifest in the crew. It’s not long before they realize that it seems something horrible happened while they were locked away. However, the question is quickly asked: Is this all real or just a part of the test?
|"I'm sorry for everyone who stepped in animal shit. We probably could have held|
this press conference indoors and just had the test subjects come out here
The concept to this one is definitely cool because I really enjoy films that make you question whether what you are seeing is real or not. Additionally, it has a great cast (with not one or two but THREE people from the CW’s DC shared television universe—Tom Cavanagh is in this too!) and it really feels like it has something going for it. Hell, to be honest, I was digging it through the first two acts and, despite some hiccups in it, was prepared to give this one a 3 out of 5. So, what went wrong?
|In case you are wondering, they did shoe-horn in the required 2001 reference.|
|He was once Superman and now is |
I was able to overlook that the characters deserved a little more depth to them—there’s enough established about them that you get their motivations and some background but there wasn’t enough development for them to have any drama, potential for tension or anything to really make me invested in them beyond just a minor curiosity. I was also able to overlook that Dane Cook is just being a watered down version of Dane Cook in this thriller. I can also forgive the fact that the film doesn’t handle the growing madness spreading through the crew before the final act very well. I can even overlook that the film drags pretty often and it made a film that was only 90 minutes long feel like a three hour ordeal. What really killed this film was how sloppy it handled ambiguity.
|I won't bother explaining Tom Cavanagh's role but, rather, tell you to listen to|
his podcast with Michael Ian Black called Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.
They take long breaks between episodes but, dammit, it's worth it!
The final act of the film is where the metaphoric shit hits the fan. I won’t get into Spoilers about what occurs but this is the point of the film where the viewer should be asking themselves whether what they are seeing is real or not and the product should be providing clues to both arguments. The sad reality is the film doesn’t do this. In fact, the film’s reality is so soaked in “Yes, this is happening” and the only disagreement comes from some sloppy dialogue that it is impossible to really be engaged over the ambiguity of it all. The whole time I kept thinking that nothing that was happening was a part of the experiment because the only evidence to the contrary was Dane Cook saying that it was. It would have helped immensely if there were some visual cues that made the viewer second guess everything they were watching.
|So, we get White Canary, The Atom and Harrison Welles but we can't get|
Wentworth Miller in this piece? Come on!
Keeping with poorly handled ambiguity, the film’s ending is the epitome of this. Had the third act succeeded in making you feel like you had no idea if the madness was legit or not, the ending might have been a nice mystery (because this one does end with a moment that does raises some questions over the reality of what you’ve seen) but, instead, it just feels way too little way too late. With its poor development of ambiguity, I wasn’t invested in the mystery of the ending moments and it made those last seconds of the film very unsatisfying.
|No knock on Ben Feldman but he looks like he should be in a Goo Goo Dolls|
400 Days really had the potential to be something better than the final product arrived at. It has a great cast and a great concept working for it but it just failed in the execution. The final act desperately wants to be vague and make you question the reality of what you are seeing but it doesn’t succeed at all because it decides to Tell and not Show. It’s not a terrible movie at all but rather a poorly developed one that doesn’t quite live up to the potential it has.