{2jtab: Movie Review}

Outland - Blu-ray Review


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4 stars

High Noon in outer space?  Starring James Bond?  Yes, please.  Written and directed by Peter Hyams (The Presidio, Timecop, 2010), Outland – upon its initial release in 1981 – failed to win over most critics.  With a stunning high definition transfer, it can be suggested that Father Time has certainly been kind to this sci-fi western.

Outland is old-fashioned and perhaps a little underdeveloped when it comes to the villains, but its workhorse-like spunk is unrelenting.  Snaking by on its future-shock settings (a mining facility on Jupiter’s moon, Io) and a tough-as-nails performance from Sean Connery, Outland offers a bit of mystery and intrigue as it capitalizes on the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien in look and tone.

William T. O'Niel (Sean Connery), sent to be Federal District Marshall for Con-Am #27 (a moon-based mining community) and his family discover just how isolated they are.   There might be 2,144 individuals working in the facility but O’Niel’s wife (Kika Markham) wants her son to see the sky back on Earth.  She doesn’t want him to continue to be raised around hardcore and dangerous types that work the mines.

When Marshall O’Neil hears that an alarming number of workers are suddenly committing suicide for no reason, he starts to investigate and she starts to panic.  She decides to leave the facility with her son.  O’Niel is hurt by her decision to leave, but understands what his job is and he won’t leave until it is completed.

After being lectured by Sheppard (Peter Boyle), the general manager of the mining operation, about the importance of letting the workers have their fun at the risk of breaking a few rules, O’Niel goes with his gut feeling and investigate the deaths.  He’s an outsider and can’t seem to win over his officers.  As the suicides continue, he enlists the help of Dr. Marion Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen) and learns that 28 workers have died suspiciously in the past six months.

He works tirelessly to put clues together and, eventually, finds himself hunted by some bounty hunters as he whittles the mystery down to an inherent evil inside the corporation’s facility.  It’s a speedy thriller that – while completely dedicated to the science fiction atmosphere – casts that aspect as secondary to the plot.  Of course, we know the person responsible for the deaths.  I suppose this is a minor flaw in the film; none of the storylines are surprises.  And, with, the arrival of the bounty hunters and flashes of clocks ticking down the minutes, the nods to Fred Zinneman’s High Noon become more than obvious.

It’s one man against the system.

Hyams was told by the studio NOT to write a western and so he did just that.  At the time, westerns were certainly out of style in Hollywood.  What Hyams did could be classified as theft by some but he really wanted that western.  He took the themes of High Noon, uncomplicated the characters, and then placed it in space to deflect the studio stuffed suits.  It worked.  The tone is much darker than High Noon and – while the characters are a bit on the pulpy side of juice – the movie crackles with crime and mystery and a rough sense of justice.

Jerry Goldsmith's atonal and inharmonious score is as haunting and surreal as production designer Philip Harrison's sets.  Add on John Stears's special effects – which includes the first use of IntroVision - allowed foreground, midground and background elements to be combined in-camera and you have a dark and very real sci-fi environment.

This isn’t Gene Roddenberry’s version of the future.  The humans in Outland are still driven by greed and slimy as ever.  In theory, I’m open to considering the suggestion that Outland is scarier than Alien because of what the film suggests concerning the human spirit:  Space will not change us.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Outland - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
: Peter Hyams
: Peter Hyams
Sean Connery; Peter Boyle; Frances Sternhagen; James Sikking; John Ratzenberger
Genre: Sci-fi | Crime | Action
On Jupiter's moon he's the only law.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Some cupcake named "Cane" decided that he didn't need an environment suit. They're still sponging him off the elevator walls."
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 22, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 10, 2012

Synopsis: In the distant future, a police marshal stationed at a remote mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io uncovers a drug-smuggling conspiracy, and gets no help from the populace when he later finds himself marked for murder.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Outland - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

3 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 10, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, German SDH, Italian SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 2.0; German: Dolby Digital 2.0; Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region-free

Warner Bros high-definition transfer preserves the movie's 2.40:1 theatrical ratio by using an MPEG-4/AVC codec and a single-layer BD25.  The object delineation is never the sharpest, perhaps a condition of the original print, the picture looking a bit soft and rough.  Large portions of the picture are surrounded by plunging darkness.  That being said, the shadows hold their own against Hyam’s necessity to shoot in natural light.  Colors are deep and bold and contrast to the darkness of the picture nicely.  There is a slight blur to some of the images; again, cough that up to the print because this is the best this film has ever looked.  The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a nice touch as the mix is spread throughout and not simply front-center loaded.  Dynamics are more than adequate and dialogue is clear throughout.



  • Writer/director Hyams provides the film’s commentary and clears up some of the misconceptions about exactly who shot the film.  While credited to another, Hyams (who prefers to shoot his own films) claims responsibility for the images on the screen.  Naturally lit and dark in spirit, Outland is all his.  What’s great about the recording is that it is a NEW one.  Hyams talks about current television shows and, for the film just dusting off its 30 years, he has a great memory about the shoot.  Fascinating information here.

Special Features:

Disappointment follows. There are none. Boo.

{2jtab: Trailer}