What if you discovered that your whole life was a lie, that the parents you believed dead are part of the farce, and that nothing good awaits you in the future? This is the plot of Orbita 9 (Orbiter 9) an interesting Hispanic-Colombian production, quite distinct and definitely more thought-provoking than the usual Hollywood sci-fi fare.
Helena (Clara Lago) is a twenty year old who lives in isolation in a spacecraft that is making a trip that’ll take a lifetime, toward a terrestrial colony in a remote star system. She started the trip with her parents as a baby, and they had to sacrifice themselves for her survival because of an oxygen-generating problem.
The young woman fills her solitary daily routine working on the ship, exercising and watching romantic movies, which for her are a total fiction, as the only people she’s ever known have been her parents.
So unsurprisingly, Helena is both excited and nervous when her ship is due to be met and boarded by a young engineer, Álex (Álex González), who will do the necessary maintenance so that she can continue and complete her journey.
Their meeting provokes predictable reactions in Helena, and despite Álex’s initial reluctance, they have a brief physical liaison. But then Álex departs just as suddenly as he appeared, and Helene is left to mournfully contemplate the remaining twenty years of her journey.
But its only when Álex leaves the ship, that the truth is finally revealed. What was thought to be a spaceship is a huge underground facility somewhere in Colombia. All of it is a simulation of space travel, and Helena is only one of ten people who are studied without being aware of what’s really going on.
Having been so affected by his meeting with Helene and becoming increasingly guilty wi the knowledge of her enforced and unknowing isolation, Álex begins to question the ethical aspects of the experiment, where innocent people are subjected to life imprisonment without the least prospect of freedom.
Finally Álex decides to act, and the repercussions of his actions form the basis of the rest of the film…
Although the synopsis suggests that this is a trivial science fiction, Orbiter 9 shows that, with intelligence and creativity, it is possible to make a quality movie with few resources. The budget for this movie was four million euros, which in Hollywood would just be the pay of any famous actor. Without major appeals for special effects, but taking advantage of some interesting locations, it is easy to believe the story unfolding on-screen.
Orbiter 9 raises some interesting points for discussion, such as the use of humans in experiments without their awareness or permission.
In truth it could have been a far shorter, more condensed story, and there are times when certain scenes are played out far too long, as if to just fill out screen-time.
Nevertheless its a great premise for a story and it is executed in a very safe and steady manner. Perhaps a slight injection of Hollywood pizzazz might have done it some good in certain key scenes, but for those who enjoy being provoked into a larger discussion after the movie is over, this might just be a movie for you.
Orbiter 9 is now available on Netflix.