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Gateway, The
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by Jay Seaver

"There's probably a slightly (but crucially) better version in another world"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "The Gateway" (also called "Alpha Gateway" because there's a good chance your cable company lists its pay-per-view options alphabetically) is a reasonably capable parallel-worlds bit of science fiction that relies an awful lot on security procedures being terribly lax in all versions of Australia, even the paranoid violent one. It's the kind of thriller that simultaneously hopes you'll be impressed by its twists and not notice the really questionable things necessary to get to them, but at least it's got a decent-enough cast to make the good bits work.

Chief among them is Jacqueline McKenzie, playing scientist Jane Chandler, a physicist working on teleportation in an office she shares with Regg (Ben Mortley). She's got an extremely supportive husband (Myles Pollard) and two kids (Shannon Berry & Ryan Panizza), and while she and Regg haven't exactly cracked teleportation - their most successful attempt seems to have just disintegrated the apple they were trying to move across the room - they eventually figure out that they sent it to a parallel universe. Research is put on hold when that husband dies in a car crash, leading her to transport herself. And when it turns out that Matt lost Jane in this other world, where they have no kids, well, that fits together just too perfectly.

My notes on this movie include some hasty calculations to try and convert the 350 petawatts for six seconds that this machine requires into the same units as my electric bill (at twenty cents per kilowatt-hour, each time Jane uses the device costs over thirty-one billion dollars American, and I kind of doubt that the exchange rate or different voltage makes enough of a difference that it makes sense for her to do so this casually), and that's just one of the many details about this project that don't make a whole lot of sense. As mentioned, it doesn't seem as though the people working on this project even do so much as lock their doors in any universe, and one might think that, even before things went further to hell, someone might ask Jane what her long-term plan was in terms of having a copy of her legally, verifiably dead husband around. There are a lot of things like that in this movie, unimportant if you're caught up and miss them, but kind of hard to overlook once they're seen, especially once director John V. Soto and co-writer Michael White start asking the audience to pay attention to details in the last act.

This doesn't completely diminish the film's other merits, though; Soto and White build a tight core group of characters and keep the story centered enough on them that a lot of subplots and tangents that might naturally get pulled in can be left to the side because they really don't matter to the story they want to tell. There's heft to that story, with Jane's desperation for a way out of her grief driving her every decision but not being so symbolic that there's no room for a little fun moving pieces around later. The design of the sci-fi elements is simple but generally convincing, even if some of the effects work betrays a limited budget. Soto and editor Regg Skwarko pace it well, neither rushing past things nor letting them get bogged down.

And McKenzie proves capable shoulders to rest the film on, never stumbling over the silly technical dialogue or looking like she doesn't know her way around odd locations. She's able to sell a smart person doing foolish things and shift into a more determined mode when the film needs it. Myles Pollard is a little more wobbly as the Matts. It's not just that the first one the audience meets is built to be likable - Pollard nailing that charm is both important and enjoyable - or that the second is obviously keeping something hidden from the start; the contrast is just a bit too stark for the audience to connect them the way Jane does.

"The Gateway" would be helped a bit if Soto and company quit a couple minutes earlier (the scenes at each end of the movie are easily-dropped and the film would be better for their absence) and sweated the details a little more; it seems like the filmmakers outsmart themselves at times. There's at least enough talent involved to make it go down easy, should this ever be the best movie available that one hasn't seen.

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originally posted: 02/16/18 15:09:01
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User Comments

2/19/18 Scifi Junkie Mon Great Concept, Good low budget movie 4 stars
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  03-May-2018 (M)

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