400 Days is a sci-fi/horror movie about a bunch of astronaut candidates joining an experiment in which the psychological effects of long term isolation are studied by the NASA in the hopes of joining a similar actual mission.
Fig.1. Costumes and decoration are for illustration purposes, they may largely vary in the original film (image: IMDB)
With its 4,5 IMDB points, it deserves every point it lost and even more. Movie’s seem to be actually about four people with severe psychological issues who are shut in a bunker for 400 days. However, the director successfully destroys this interpretation and kills the movie a second time with a number of horror elements which have no possible meaning whatsoever.
As you might have guessed, there are major spoilers below, in fact a full summary. If you’re really determined to watch this, I mean if there’s nothing left to watch or if you lost a bet or something do not read the rest of it.
Movie starts with Theo being bailed out of custody held for being publicly drunk and disorderly, by Walter, who’s leading the experiment. We understand that Theo is very very valuable for the mission. Think about it, he is such a genius that, people at NASA, which is by a wild guess possibly a very strict and disciplined organization, do not even think about kicking him out despite of all his unacceptable, unwanted behavior. Think about your own times at university. This about that one course where you failed because of a single assignment that you didn’t hand. This is like not handing any assignments, not taking any of the exams and punching the professor’s teeth in and still getting a passing grade. This is how valuable and talented he is, you, worthless scum.
Fig.2. Being an astronaut is public service in USA
What I don’t understand is why most of the books and movies describe NASA as loving uncontrollable rebels, psychopaths, major depressive, suicidal people. The only sound reason that comes to my mind is that people in Hollywood implicitly trying to tell us that “these are the ones we should catapult into bloody void; we have to get rid of them somehow”. It is pretty obvious what would happen if you lock four sociopaths with a tendency of violence. And it does.
Fig.3. This is the closest the actors looking like astronauts
After a short press conference, the characters are lowered to the shelter with the looks of a spacecraft where they will spend 400 days. One side of the experiment is to monitor their behavior and the other side is to decide whether these people would succeed in a real mission.
After the hatch is shut, the first meaningful event is Dvorak getting in an argument regarding the immune shots they’re about to get with Emily, who’s the crew’s doctor. I cannot decide whether Dvorak being this far from what they’re supposed to do, or arguing against shots is more idiotic. You choose.
Fig.4. “Astronaut caprice” is not known widely, but very real
Things go normal for a while as you’d expect from healthy adults; till one day Bug find a mouse among the plants he’s responsible of. He does what every sane person does in a fully steril and isolated place or at home or even in a street: He grabs it, give it a name and come to show everyone his new pet. Before the word comes if he’s retarded or not, Dvorak responsibly stamps it wide. The conflict resolves by Dvorak and Theo strangling each other on the remaining guts of the rat. I think this is the foremost in terms of capturing the reality any movie has ever been able to depict astronaut candidates.
Fig.5. Most of the payload consists of rabies and mange medication
After rat Jonathan becomes flat, Bug losses his last screw. Although being in isolating for hundreds of days said to be the best treatment for being depressive, Bug somehow becomes worse.
Fig 6. There are people in favor of choosing astronauts among people who finished their puberty
During these events, a zombie-like looking person appears in the shelter. Theo and Bug interprets a blue person with only a pair underwear appearing in an air proof shelter that lies in the middle of NASA property, probably guarded by the military as “something may not be right up there” while Dvorak speculates that “astronauts being ready for anything clearly includes these sorts of things”. Oh god, they really prepare these astronauts for literally everything. They solve their disagreement again in a highly mature and civilised way by hitting Dvorak with a rigid object in the head. Theo and Bug head to the surface.
Fig.7. Due to the fact that real mission will take place in the space, the spacecraft is not designed people-proof
They find the surface covered in a grey dust. Just as viewers starting to think possible explanations like, “is this another planet?”, “is this the Earth and it is destroyed by something?”, “could this be another dimension?” they see that they wander around without their helmets and think “Did the Moon crashed the Earth; could we be watching such a nonsense?”. They increase our suspicion when they analyze and find armalcolite in the dust sample.
Fig.8. Experiment environment costs just 55 times much higher than the actual mission
Around this point, the sci-fi parts of the movie end and horror part begins. Astronaut candidates start to walk around in the pitch black night and try to understand what’s going on when they come to a town named Tranquility (Tranquility => Sea of Tranquility? It’s the moon, man. The signs are everywhere)
They meet some natives with uncontrollable giggles and lifeless eyes and share their runny meals and muddy drinks. In fact, it is not necessary to give any details about this village because even they do not seem to have any understanding about it. They answer the question “What happened to the Earth” with their googly eyes and grinning psychopathically as:
Bu kasabada yaşayan insanlarla karşılaşıp onlarla cıvık yemeklerini ve bulanık içkilerini paylaşıyorlar. Aslında bu kısımlarla ilgili fazla ayrıntı vermeye gerek yok, çünkü onların da bir halt bildiği yok. “Dünya’da neler oldu” sorusuna, salak salak sırıtarak, gözlerini belerte belerte verdikleri yanıt şu:
The truth is… Nobody knows what happened. It’s just that black… thing in the sky. Smacked me in the behind and sent a cloud of dust under me. Up into space and not long after that, just started raining down on us and we’re sucked it right up. Fellows over there, they’re conspiracing nut jobs, hear what I’m saying… nukes and aliens!
Fig.9. Zell: “No one, including the screen writer knows what’s going on. Mind if I stab you?”
Think for a second. Something happened that is so bad so evil that no one can even describe it. Yet it is so potent that every single person now has lifeless fish eyes, rotten teeth to the bone, sweating uncontrollably and turned into sociopaths ready to stab the next person for no real reason. It is that bad. B.A.D.
After being stabbed a number of times, remaining astronauts return to their shelter. The countdown from 400 days ends at that moment and a beam of light comes from the hatch which was pitch black a second ago as they crawl through it and we watched. This is the last foul play of the director. Apparently, he said that he wanted to leave the ending open to interpretation. What fuckin’ interpretation are the fuck we fuckin speaking about? I mean, do you even remotely think that such an experiment can bloody exist? Could NASA really carried whole fuckin’ shelter weighing 30 tons to a fuckin’ movie set just to see what their half-witted astronauts would fuckin’ do? Could NASA really get their invaluable astronauts stabbed by some actors? I doubt it.
Fig. 10. “Cut. There’s an unnecessary amount of sexiness in the scene”
The interesting thing is that this experiment was actually done. Yes, it did. No, it did not go as the Director thinks. You know what happened? Nothing. Yes, no one was hit in the head with heavy objects, no one stabbed anyone.
MARS500 deney ortamı planı (görsel: Mars500)
Between 2007 and 2011 Russia, ESA and China conducted a series of experiments under the name of MARS500 to study effects of long term isolation on future crew’s psychology and physiology. The experiment that inspired this movie was the 3rd stage and done with a participation of 6 people. And it did last 120 days longer to a total of 520 days. Nothing happened, no one snapped. Maybe results are like this because there were no Americans among them. Or maybe regular people with no apparent psychological issues do not usually tend to cut each other.