Dystopian Thriller Runs Out of Steam
Last Sentinel takes place in a dystopian future after a catastrophic rise in sea levels. Two continents remain on opposite sides of the world in a battle for dwindling resources. Four soldiers from the South guard an outpost in the middle of a vast ocean. They are the first watch for any impending attack in a war that has gone cold for forty years. The film attempts thoughtful discourse on climate change, humanity’s destructive nature, and paranoid xenophobia in a desolate setting. It gets credit for creating a gloomy atmosphere but runs out of steam. The mystery that drives the narrative lingers for too long into a banal finale.
In 2063, Sergeant Heindrichs (Thomas Kretschmann) watches as the Sentinel crew struggles to catch fish in a storm. An alert blares that a massive tidal wave is approaching. Corporal Cassidy (Kate Bosworth), the second in command, tries to help Sullivan (Lucien Laviscount) and Baines (Martin McCann) reel in the net with precious fresh food. Their efforts fail as the wave smashes into the rig’s platform.
Sarge keeps to a strict schedule despite their low morale. They have a job to do. Sullivan checks the radio for any news from command. There’s no response… as usual. They’ve been at Sentinel for two years. Replacements should have arrived months ago. Baines, the engineer, warns that all systems are falling apart. They take iodine baths to remove radioactive particles. A twenty-megaton nuclear weapon is the final act of defense.
A Boat Approaches
A blip shows up on radar. A boat approaches Sentinel. Baines and Sullivan are elated. They’ll finally be able to leave. Sarge calls to arms when the vessel doesn’t respond to radio contact. It could be the enemy. Sarge prepares to fire, but Cassidy cautions a measured response. Sullivan is ordered to take a dinghy and investigate.
Last Sentinel envelops the characters in a stark unknown. They have been isolated for years. Their supposed adversary could strike at any moment. The soldiers must be vigilant to protect the homeland. But there hasn’t been any conflict for decades. Does the enemy actually exist? Are they going through the motions for an imagined threat? The boat represents salvation to a desperate Sullivan and Baines. Sarge refuses to abandon his post. Their actions tread mutinous. This isn’t a democracy. Cassidy must choose between expected duty and the frank truth about their tenuous situation.
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Estonian director Tanel Toom (Truth and Justice) establishes believable tension in the first act. The storm and its aftermath shows the dividing lines between characters. The bomb’s presence is the clear indicator of the worst-case scenario. That early intrigue fades as machinations over the boat drags on. It’s obvious where the different personalities clash. There’s a point where the film had to seize the moment and proceed with vigor. Instead, it succumbs to melodrama by focusing on a not-so-secret affair. This subplot meanders when the action should have been in high gear.
A Climactic Twist
Last Sentinel further devolves with an inane climactic twist. It makes little sense with rational thought. The same objective could have been achieved at any point in the story. A lackluster ending torpedoes what could have been a passable thriller.
Last Sentinel is a production of Allfilm, Altitude Film Entertainment, and BR/Arte. It will have a theatrical and VOD release on March 24th from Vertical.