Proximity starts off like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, then becomes George Lucas's THX 1138 before finally morphing into The Day the Earth Stood Still by way of a faith-based film. I'd be lying if I said the movie wasn't goofy. Goofiness is part of the appeal, though. Writer/director Eric Demeusy – a VFX artist who has worked on Tron Legacy, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things – pays loving homage to his inspirations, and that makes Proximity endearing, even as it takes on too many elements.
Isaac Cypress (Ryan Masson) is a twentysomething scientist working in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He goes hiking one day with his video camera in tow, because his therapist encouraged him to make a video diary. While out on the trail, he sees a genuine old-fashioned flying saucer and, a moment later, a skinny bald alien with huge eyes. Then he gets sucked up into the ship, only to awaken on the ground three days later, with no memory of what took place.
Isaac gets some of this on video. He uploads it to the internet, becomes both a media sensation and a punchline, and attracts the attention of a covert government organization that thinks he can lead them to Carl (Don Scribner), the witness to a bizarre extraterrestrial encounter decades before. Proximity also contains an eerie underground government facility from which Isaac must escape, white-helmeted robot troops he must evade, and a fellow abductee named Sara (Highdee Kuan) who helps him in his quest to figure out what the aliens want.
I'm not sure Proximity fully knows what it wants to be. Then again, that doesn't really matter, given that the movie is consistently fun to watch. Early scenes have a Spielberg-like feel, with a dramatic brass-heavy score underlining the mystery of Isaac's abduction. The middle section, which is largely a chase involving those robocops, offers some cool thrills. For example, Isaac, Sara, and another helper, Zed (Christian Prentice), attempt to foil their facial recognition software upon being trapped inside a train car.
The transition into the last act is drawn out more than necessary, as the gang waits for what they believe will be another alien arrival. A good twelve or fifteen minutes is spent with the plot hovering. That drags down the pace, although it picks back up during a finale that's just delightfully preposterous enough with its Big Questions to suck you back in. Actually, a big-budget, high-profile sci-fi flick from within the last eight years did something similar. (Telling you which one would spoil this movie, so I won't get specific.) I warm to any story that strives for such grand ideas, even if they are a bit kooky. Too many films these days aim low. We should celebrate those that shoot for the moon.
Proximity has excellent visual effects throughout, makes good use of pop songs on the soundtrack, and features a nice lead performance from Ryan Masson, who deftly avoids all the “tech nerd” stereotypes. No matter what kind of sci-fi you like, there's some of it in here. Demeusy clearly has an abundance of enthusiasm for the genre, as well as a desire to provide escapist genre entertainment with a vintage feel. That proves infectious.
I liked this crazy little picture a lot.
out of four
Proximity is unrated, but mild violence. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.