(aka, Deep Burial, Half Life)
The real star of Atomica is the Cold War nuclear missile bunker where it was shot.
It seems a particularly apropos setting as nuclear energy is a persistent theme throughout the film.
A major nuclear plant disaster destroyed several cities and left the area around a devastated wasteland. But the Auxilsun corporation changed all that with their new power generating system which not only produces clean energy but also cleans up the disaster site and safely disposes of nuclear waste all at the same time!
However, one of their power plants on the edge of the wasteland goes silent, and Abby, a young and inexperienced female officer eager to get out into the field for the first time, rushes out to the site to find out what’s going on.
She finds one of the two men stationed at the plant is missing, while the other (played by Dominic Monaghan, who you probably remember as Charlie on Lost) is behaving very erratically.
But far more is wrong at the site than it first appears, and dark secrets and a terrible mystery are all there waiting for Abby…
Atomica looks so good. The missile silo itself is a perfect location for the story: dark, often claustrophobic, and decidedly lived in, with rounded tunnels and heavy steel doors.
But we also get a few glimpses of the wastes around the station (which is apparently an actual location), as well as some moderately impressive CGI of the undamaged cities outside the wastes, and a very cool ball-shaped flying vehicle. However, we don’t see much of any of this, just enough to set the stage.
Atomica has a very consistent look, all broody and atmospheric, thanks to the excellent cinematography.
The mystery at its heart builds nicely, with countless bizarre little things happening. It gets stranger and stranger until all the pieces finally fall into place.
It’s all quite impressive.
Until, that is, we finally reach the ending and everything falls apart.
And, no, I’m not referring to the dubious physics. After all, we’ve seen plot driven chemistry in countless other films before.
Now I know some of you won’t agree with me on this. After all, I’ve often found that [spoiler] this sort of Nihilist ending goes against our natural sense of justice.
Particularly in a B-Movie science fiction mystery story.
Oh, well. So close.
Atomica does so much so beautifully with its tiny budget.
I just wish it had turned out better…