It is sort was sort of like winning the ultimate reality TV survival game, except maybe winners weren’t so lucky. After the doomsday plague broke out, 5,000 lottery winners were placed in sealed bunkers and connected to six other survivors via the communication system known as the “Domain.” Survival has been more of a mental challenge for Phoenix and her six fellow lucky drawers, but they might start to face physical issues as well in screenwriter-director Nathaniel Atcheson’s Domain (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.
Phoenix is stuck with a really motley group of survivors. Somewhere, along the way, they stopped using names and started referring to each by the city their bunker is located in. Orlando is an aggressively obnoxious jerk, who recently confessed to his criminal past. He is definitely the worst of the group, but Chicago has also been exhibiting anti-social tendencies. At least she has Denver, with whom she has commenced a seriously long-distance relationship. That has caused a bit of jealousy in Boston, who takes his position as their ostensive leader very seriously.
Over Phoenix’s objections, the group votes to disconnect Orlando from their feeds. Presumably, this is a massive violation of protocol, but Denver’s hacking prowess makes it possible. Unfortunately, bugs start developing in the system shortly thereafter, suggesting they may have upset the Domain’s equilibrium. As the glitches become progressively more serious, Phoenix and Denver start considering the possibility of escape.
The first two-thirds of Domain are quite cleverly conceived and tightly executed. These (for the most part) six bunkers feel like a real living environment, as well as a hermetically sealed ecosystem unto itself. However, Atcheson sort of writes himself into a corner, which forces him to fall back on a derivative cop-out third act reveal.
Brit Lower is terrific as Phoenix, balancing strength and vulnerability in equal measure. She develops some remarkably potent (though necessarily chaste) chemistry with Ryan Merriman’s Denver. William Gregory Lee also portrays the risk-averse Boston with surprising depth and dimension.
Even though the laws governing their situation do not make a great deal of sense, but Atcheson scrupulous observes them—and in some cases explanations will be revealed later. Yet, the film really works best when things are murky and mysterious. Recommended as an interesting near-future, slightly-dystopian film (one that is more about the social and psychological implications of extreme situations), Domain opens tomorrow (9/28) in LA, at the Laemmle Music Hall.