Standard image of the new scientist

Proxima review: Eva Green shines as a disturbed astronaut

Alice Winocour's new film Proxima shows the difficulties in reconciling family life with a career as an astronaut, says Simon Ings


July 29, 2020

By Simon Ings

Astronaut Sarah Loreau (Eva Green) is preparing to leave Earth in Proxima

Dharamsala & Darius films


Alice Winocour


In British cinemas from July 31st

The year before Apollo 11's successful mission to the moon, Robert Altman directed James Caan and Robert Duvall in the countdown. The 1968 film stuck to the technology of its time and brought the drama to the point with a somewhat unusual mission plan: astronaut Lee Stegler and his protective cover are sent to the lunar surface on separate flights, and Stegler has to find accommodation as soon as he lands if he is survival.

The film was the scene of characters you could possibly meet in the supermarket: the astronauts, engineers and bureaucrats have families and everyday problems that are not so different from your own.

Proxima is a countdown to the 21st century. Sarah Loreau, an astronaut brilliantly played by Eva Green, has the last minute opportunity to join a pre-Mars mission to the International Space Station. Loreau's training and preparation will be impressive on site at the European Space Agency's facilities in Cologne – with a cameo by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet – and in Star City, the complex outside Moscow where the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center is located captured. It will ultimately start from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

The comparison of Proxima with Countdown shows how much both the cinema and the space community have changed in the past half century. There are archaeological traces of melodramaticians from action heroes in Proxima, but they are the least satisfactory parts of the film. Eva Green is a credible astronaut and a good mother who is driven to the extreme on both fronts and is painfully aware that she chose this course for herself. It cannot always be everything for everyone and, as she learns, there is no perfect.

As Proxima arrives late – its launch was delayed due to Covid-19's blockage – advances in space technology Georges Lechaptois & # 39; meticulous location cinematography have already baffled somewhat. I came to the film that was still swaying when I saw the Endeavor Crew capsule take off from the Kennedy Space Center on May 20th.

This crewed launch was the first of its kind on U.S. soil since NASA's Space Shuttle was taken out of service in 2011. From my sofa it looked about as eventful as a ride on an airport shuttle bus. It was therefore difficult to take these moments in Proxima seriously when the start from the surface of our planet caused an existential crisis. "You leave the earth!" exclaims family psychologist Wendy (Sandra Hüller) once and thoroughly deserves the expression of contempt Loreau shoots at her.

Proxima's credits include lovable pictures of real-life astronauts with their very young children – which is a minor problem. The action focuses mainly on the effects of getting your child to work, spending half the day in a space suit on the bottom of a swimming pool. "Cut off the rope!" the absurd chauvinistic NASA astronaut Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon) cries when Loreau has to chase after her little daughter.

However, here is photographic evidence that suggests that Loreau's real colleagues – Yelena Kondakova, Ellen Ochoa, Cady Coleman, and Naoko Yamazaki – managed perfectly on several missions without all the turbulence from Proxima. Wouldn't we have been better off seeing the realities they faced than watching Loreau break the Baikonur security protocols in the final moments of the film to steal a feel-good, crowd-pleasing mother-daughter moment?

For half a century, films have struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing realities of the space sector. Although Proxima is interesting and has a tremendous core performance from Green, it turns out to be no more relevant than its ancestors.

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