At some point in a vaguely dystopian near future, humankind is reliant on a new form of nuclear power. Built upon the carcass of a previous station, this state of the art engine repairs the damage caused by its predecessor and turns harmful radiation into non-harmful radiation and ultimately power. It’s eco-friendly, it’s revolutionary, and it’s going wrong. Dispatched to identify the cause of the problem is safety officer Abby (Sarah Habel), and upon arrival she discovers it’s not only the plant that has issues, but the isolated two-man team charged with maintaining it.
As intriguing as the premise is with Atomica, there is barely enough depth in the narrative to maintain the 81-minute running time. Once Abby arrives at the plant and establishes that sabotage is the likely reason for the problems – there are only two possible culprits – she spends an age working out what the audience has guessed in the first few moments. First up is Robinson (Dominic Monaghan – channelling a creepy side we’ve seen better employed in recent hostage horror Pet (2016)), a man who is theoretically the janitor, and whose nervousness is so blatantly painted that he might as well be carrying around a large sign with the word ‘SUSPECT’ on it. Secondly there is Dr. Zek (a weary looking Tom Sizemore) who, as the resident scientist, appears to have both the opportunity and skillset to disrupt a billion-dollar nuclear facility. The only thing is, he’s missing. Intriguing indeed. Except it isn’t, and the more the film tries desperately to generate some interest in the bizarre triangle at its heart, the less you care who is doing what and why.
Painting the characters with such broad strokes would appear to be a distraction tactic from director Dagen Merrill. With a screenplay that would better lend itself to a short film, the reliance on his characters becoming clichéd caricatures became a necessity. Monaghan has embraced this with the most enthusiasm, giving Robinson the persona of an overly familiar cousin as he repetitively invades the personal space of Abby, to a point where it becomes almost voyeuristic. Sizemore, however, wears the expression of someone who is as baffled by his presence as the audience is.
It’s difficult to perceive quite how Atomica came into being, or how it attracted interesting people to a project that is anything but. For his part Merrill has done better things previously, with Murder In The Dark (2013) a highlight, and his cast all have strong works on their résumé, so we must assume this is nothing more than an oversight. It is likely that Atomica will simply drift away to dwell in the dark depths of Netflix or some other streaming platform, exposed for what it really is: a routine, churn-them-out SyFy Channel television movie that has somehow stumbled into the light.
Atomica was released in selected cinemas across the US on March 17th 2017 and on VOD platforms on March 21st 2017.