After screening The Show at FrightFest in 2021, director Mitch Jenkins returns to the festival with his new movie, A Million Days. Whereas The Show was a fantasy crime thriller collaboration with Alan Moore, filled with quirky looking characters and strange goings on, A Million Days is more reserved. Written by Michael Dobbin and Guillaume Fradin, A Million Days is a grounded science-fiction story that will get your synapses firing.
The setting for A Million Days is the year 2041. Earth is in ecological collapse and humanity’s survival rests on becoming an inter-planetary civilisation. The ‘Seed Program’ has been created to settle new worlds. Its mission has been made possible by a single entity, an artificial intelligence system known only as Jay. A Million Days unfolds on the eve of an important mission to create the first lunar colony. Lead astronaut Anderson (Simon Merrells) and his partner A.I lead, Sam (Kemi-Bo Jacobs), are enjoying one last night together on Earth. Their evening is interrupted by Sam’s new employee, Charlie (Hermione Corfield). The new recruit has accidentally asked Jay to provide a simulated analysis of expedition outcomes for a million days. As the three begin to filter through the data, a horrifying sequence of events are revealed…
An intimate setting provides fertile ground for A Million Days to explore its intriguing ideas. Set within the walls of a fancy home come research laboratory, Jenkins keeps the science-fiction elements grounded. Advanced technologies are discussed, but much of what is seen on screen does not look too dissimilar to our own homes. So often science-fiction stories race off on a tangent; desperate to show the future, their films are full of excessive technology. The problem is exacerbated when films are set, as is A Million Days, in the near future. Thankfully it is a problem that Jenkins skirts; his 2041 appears somewhat tangible.
The core subject matter itself – artificial intelligence – is especially timely. Although the focus in our current society is on how A.I. is on the precipice of destroying the arts and entertainment industry, Jenkins’ film sticks to the more sci-fi friendly arena of space travel. Not only has Jay been specifically built for Anderson’s mission, it is also capable of processing all eventual outcomes of every scenario that could impact the launch and the mission’s success. The A.I. is revealed early on as being exceptional in its accuracy and its predictions for the mission outcome are disquieting. As Anderson, Sam and Charlie try to figure out what all the information means, they start to turn on one another. Could Jay be manipulating them? The ideas presented are fascinating, and although wrapped within a lot of science jargon, they should be accessible for even the least science minded in the audience.
In addition to the questionable intent of Jay, A Million Days explores the potential future of space travel. Mankind has been obsessed with the cosmos forever and to see a world where it can become common practice enough that people will soon live on the moon is beguiling. The reasons for the shift to space are not so romantic however. At several moments both Anderson and Sam comment about their carbon ration, confirming that Earth is in dire straits. Though Jenkins’ film never expands outside of this home, these little titbits of information enable the viewer to imagine the greater world.
Another cautionary tale about mankind’s reliance on technology, but done without all the typical sci-fi trappings, this exploration becomes more chilling as it progresses. Quiet and intimate, A Million Days takes a fascinating premise and runs with it creating an uncomfortable look into our future. A sci-fi that strives for the moon in theory only, by keeping its feet firmly on the ground A Million Days becomes a much more compelling story.
A Million Days
An intimate science-fiction thriller that revolves around a very timely subject matter, A Million Days is compellingly complex in spite of its modest appearance.
A Million Days was reviewed at Pigeon Shrine FrightFest 2023. Signature Entertainment presents A Million Days on Digital Platforms coming in 2024