Viking Night: Outland
By Bruce Hall
February 9, 2016
Answer quickly - what's better than the words “Sean Connery in space?"
Too late. The answer, of course, is nothing. Unless you mean Sean Connery in space, riding a dinosaur and using his laser vision to fight ninja robots. But enough about my failed attempts at fan fiction. Sean Connery is a proven badass, and his manly exploits are known far and wide. I am comfortable assuming that when Outland was first pitched, those four words were all that was needed to make it rain. So, Director Peter Hyams' (2010, Timecop) self-written script became a reality, and everyone's favorite Bond would play his reluctant anti-hero.
But Outland does not involve eccentric villains and their secret volcano lairs. And there are no underwritten 25-year-old supermodels for Mr. Connery to make out with. Outland is a space adventure set in a mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons. But the cinematography, the production design, the lighting and sets all are similar in tone to Alien (Jerry Goldsmith even wrote the score for both films), while the plot is essentially an old fashioned frontier drama in space, famously based on the old Gary Cooper classic High Noon.
Okay, so Sean Connery is a Space Cowboy. That's cool. I'm still on board.
In fact, Connery's first line of dialogue is a threat to punch his son in the mouth. William O'Neill (Connery) is a federal marshal with a tendency to make waves, so he and his family have been sent to the ass end of space, where he's to become director of security for that mining colony I mentioned earlier. It's a grim place where the miners work long hours, cut off from civilization for years at a time. The pay is good, but everyone has limits. If you were a kid in the early '80s you probably remember the trailer where Cliff Clavin's head explodes in his spacesuit. That happens just a few minutes in, when a desperate miner (yes, it's John Ratzenberger) gives in to hallucinations and tears his suit open.
Ordinarily this would be kind of a big deal, but a massive corporation runs the mine, and the worker complaints don't bother them nearly as much as the prospect of missing out on another year of record profits. Sheppard, the plant manager, takes it all in stride. He's a Company rock star and takes a lot of pride in (and gets a hefty cut of) those profits. He's got no time for O'Neill and his theories, and cops an immediate attitude with the Marshall. This will be important later because, you know, duh.
O'Neill's terrible, horrible, no good very bad day gets worse when his wife splits with their son. She can't handle life in space anymore, and leaves behind a Dear John letter expressing her feelings. O'Neill is devastated, but of course he doesn't show it because like all badasses, he lacks the ability to cry preferring to suppress his feelings until they explode into heinous fits of law enforcing rage. Luckily, the string of suicides continues, so the Marshall gets to channel his righteous indignation into unravelling why anyone whose job is breaking rocks in a spacesuit under unsafe conditions for years at a time 360 million miles from home could possibly want to kill themselves.