History’s COVID lockdowns produced an awful lot of desired and undesired effects. While the data has probably yet been gathered to prove the efficacy of the idea, countless folks found themselves unemployed as whole businesses were shutdown and shuttered as a consequence of some failed authoritarian policies. (Yes, I said it; and no, I’m not sorry.) Families were probably forced to deal with a terrible amount of emotional baggage that had been stored up over the years once they were locked under one roof for such an extended period; and they no doubt amassed some whole new issues they’ll be dealing with for years thanks to the same. Children had their intellectual and social growth stunted for the duration, a horrific development that’ll likely deliver us a generation of adults with emotional hang-ups we’ve never seen before.
But – hey – Hollywood got its elite together and produced a film … so the destruction of our culture and society couldn’t have been all that bad, am I right? Zero Contact comes from screenwriter Cam Cannon and director Rick Dugdale. It’s all set against the backdrop of corporate skullduggery and the potential annihilation of the species, all at the hands of a deceased oddball scientist who may or may not have opened Pandora’s Box before he left us this parting gift. And it’s a story all told in a real-time format across the advent of Facetime … so it looks like doom and gloom can’t be all that bad, after all?
Some creatives just never learn.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Hopkins plays Finley Hart, the eccentric genius behind a global data-mining program. Upon his death, five remote agents – including Finley’s son – are contact by a mysterious A.I. entity to reactive the initiative, which may enable time travel. As sinister events occur at each of the agents’ homes, they must decide whether entering their passwords will save the world … or destroy it.”
Believe it or not, the widespread proliferation of video capture technology has produced some artistic benefit.
So … in some respects, I guess it was only natural that some creative screenwriter – namely Cam Cannon – got the bright idea to use 2020-2021’s protracted COVID nightmare to accomplish something similar. Thus, Zero Contact was produced with all of its talents located at various places around the globe – all separate from one another – and they were brought together in one yarn involving a deceased genius who may or may not have engineered the ultimate ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ device called the Quantinuum Initiative, a technology so powerful it can do anything a screenwriter wants! (Gasp!)
Ultimately little more than a play on words, Zero Contact leaves its cleverness fully at the door. The star-studded cast (Anthony Hopkins, Aleks Paunovic, Veronica Ferres, Chris Brochu, and a few other familiar faces) unfortunately display little of the chemistry required to make an ensemble truly work – perhaps that’s owed to the fact that they had, literally, zero contact with one another – and end up being victims of this high-tech shenanigan. On the most basic level, there’s just too much nebulousness for them to muster any excitement around the idea, so audiences end up essentially eavesdropping on their passionless exchanges as the purported doomsday clock scenario keeps ticking down to zero.
This isn’t to say that their work is bad. Hopkins has done played this kind of eccentric old man before, most notably in HBO’s Westworld reimagining; if anything, his moments in this certainly help set the tone of a kindly but misunderstood wizard trying to either save the world or destroy it. I’ve always liked Paunovic as an actor, though he seems to have been cast all too often as any story’s ‘heavy.’ He tries to give his tech expert some teeth, but the half-baked script never gives him enough substance. Brochu only seems to get angrier and angrier with each take; perhaps he took this project on some bad advice? Ferres – while lovely – seemed more than a bit robotic even in moments that required a bit more emotion as the corporate lawyer with a heart of gold.
Alas, this Zero Contact never even hit the target … most likely because no one knew what they were aiming for.
Zero Contact (2022) was produced by Enderby Entertainment. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by Lionsgate. As for the technical specifications? Again, though I am no video expert, I thought the film had a lot of high-quality sights and sounds; the feature uses a fair amount of technical wizardry to weave its web, along with some obvious post-production special effects. As for the special features? Alas, you’ll have to look elsewhere as this disc boasts not a single one. Ouch.
The verdict? Buyer beware.
Honestly, I’ve seen this technique – the seamless weaving together of a plot via various character angles while no one physically is in contact with one another – used far more efficiently elsewhere … so Zero Contact really earns no stars in its attempt. Granted, this may’ve been one of the few times it’s been attempted with some high caliber star potential, but there still should be some requirement to put up a yarn with greater substance, no? This one was, sadly, all a bit predictable and only occasionally clever. It bit of a disappointment.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Lionsgate provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Zero Contact by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.