Usually, apocalyptic survival movies are defined by one singular event. Maybe it’s a worldwide pandemic, maybe it’s a superstorm or natural disaster, or maybe it’s just zombies. But it’s typically pretty clear where the line is drawn between “before” an apocalypse and “after.” As anyone who’s lived through a crisis will tell you, reality isn’t often so cut and dry.
This underseen thriller, currently on Netflix, tackles the messy ways humans can cycle through panicked decisions under layers of distress. There’s an added obstacle: these humans are in space.
3022 is a low-budget apocalyptic thriller from 2019, directed by John Suits. It begins with a long, wordless sequence following the crew of Pangea, a space station situated as a fuel station between Earth and the newly colonized moon of Europa. Different countries take 10-year terms manning the ship, and this sequence spans the first five years of the American crew’s turn.
Captain John Laine (Omar Epps) and engineer Jackie Miller (Kate Walsh) strike up a romantic relationship, while doctor Richard Valin (Angus Macfadyen) keeps a watchful eye on everyone’s condition. The fourth member of the crew, Lisa Brown (Miranda Cosgrove), isn’t given a clear role on the ship, which isn’t a great harbinger of her survival chances on the ship.
Lisa’s odds go down even further when the crew is hit with a one-two punch of disasters: first, Captain Laine is struck by night terrors and hallucinations, obvious signs that the crew is becoming mentally unfit to continue their mission. Then, there’s a massive explosion. Dr. Valin assumes the obvious: Earth, their home planet and only chance of escaping their encroaching mental health crises, is gone.
Suddenly, what seemed to be a space adventure becomes a dire-straits survival thriller, as the four members of the crew cope with their own unenviable position on Pangea amid dwindling resources. They’re all that’s left of humanity, at least until they stumble across some fellow space-dwelling survivors. But in space, it’s every man for himself.
Though 3022 is a low-budget thriller (director Suits told WorldFilmGeek the space station set was built from scratch in a parking lot), the story is engineered to not let those restrictions show. The characters experience claustrophobia in the space station, and the viewers along for that ride don’t mind the small focus of the story.
Another perk of a character-driven survival thriller like 3022 is that it acts as a bit of a character study, scrutinizing each of the crew members. “What I initially found so fascinating when I read the script is that I could understand each character’s actions and motivation,” Suits told SciFiPulse. “Even if I didn’t agree with their choices, I understood why they were making them.”
If you’re looking for a profoundly human psychological space thriller, or an example of how a cheap movie can look seamless while keeping an audience immersed in action and story, look no further than 3022.
3022 is now streaming on Netflix.