“Project Eden Vol.1” is an Australian independent movie that’s large on ambition; weaving an intriguing tale of conspiracy and governmental control, and alternate bleak future timelines. With great ambition comes the burden of world building and ‘burying the lead’ so-to-speak of the recent trend of whole stories split into two. “Project Eden Vol. 1” is definitely more “Mocking Jay” than “Deathly Hallows”.
“Project Eden Vol. 1” is a movie set in the U.S but a U.S that has diverged after the events of 9/11, where the effects and the reaction on the American home-front are more pronounced. Implied chemical attacks motivate a world where medicine is another mechanism for governmental control. The people have surrendered privacy for prescription; medication, psychotherapy, even suggestions of required religious realignment. Evelyn Green (Emily Fradenburgh) is approached by fugitive Ethan Varick (Peter Christian Hansen) and is immediately guilty by association, pushing her to make a desperate dash to escape. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “Tower 7,” “false flag event”; this film is in your lane.
Sophomore writer/directors Ashlee Jensen and Terrance M. Young (their first film “500 Miles” made a splash on the festival circuit) face the challenge of attempting to engage you in the conspiratorial intrigue that has infiltrated all forms of government. The high concept tapestry of “Project Eden Vol. 1” is meaningless if you can’t connect with the leading character at the centre. Cinematographer Christopher Lange supplies the dreamy compositions of Evelyn’s foggy mind and does a great job of tying together international locations in the U.S, New Zealand and in Queensland. The sound design in the climactic scenes set in a bunker almost shakes you out of your seats.
Fortunately Emily Fradenburgh’s Evelyn anchors the story. She lives in isolation, wallowing in the misery of losing her husband and pining for her son, waiting for him to break through a perpetual catatonic state. Jensen and Young frame Evelyn’s experience in a way that casts doubt on whether everything we’re experiencing and seeing is unfolding from an objective perspective.
Hansen’s Ethan bursts on the scene like a more measured Kyle Reese in “The Terminator.” Hansen unfortunately lacks that magnetic gaze and grit of Michael Biehn and the script has to fast forward a developing attraction between Evelyn and Ethan that unfortunately ends up feeling more like advantage being taken instead of the solace for fugitives.
Mike Dopud (“Stargate” and more movies than you can count as a stunt man) is Agent David Roth, the physically imposing yet slimy lead FBI agent hunting for Ethan and willing to lean on Evelyn to catch his man. Dopud gives off the vibe of a sadistic office manager, except instead of reprimands he’s punctuating conversations with head shots. Former “Home and Away” star Paul O’Brien plays an FBI henchman and demonstrates some so far unexplored action chops. If this character could take his handgun back to ‘Summer Bay’ I would definitely watch. Eric Avari’s Shepard brings a presence and mellifluous voice to proceedings and begins to unlock the mysteries the filmmakers have been keeping close to their chests.
“Project Eden Vol. 1” ends with a cliff-hanger that entices but it’s hard to say whether it’s earned. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling; hopefully what they dreamt up, has not made them its master because it only leaves a triumph or disaster.
“Project Eden Vol.1” will be released on DVD in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment in the second half of 2017.