Reviewed by: David Peterson
Over 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean, partially buried beneath a coral bed, lies a mysterious spacecraft. Under a blanket of total secrecy, the U.S. government assembles a special research team comprised of a psychologist (Dustin Hoffman), mathematician (Samuel L. Jackson), physicist, and biologist (Sharon Stone) and the obligatory military personnel. The team is led by the psychologist, Norman and is ordered by guidelines from a document he wrote years earlier in a half-hearted effort to provide the U.S. government with rules of first-time contact with an ULF (unknown life form).
After establishing a base in a special underwater research lab, the small team goes inside the space craft to investigate further. The huge craft (over ½ mile long!) has been untouched in nearly 300 years. After making some startling discoveries about the origins of the strange ship, the team finds its most intriguing cargo—the sphere. A large, geometrically perfect sphere made of an unknown material. The sphere is obviously alien, but what is its purpose?
During the analysis of the strange orb, the team discovers a strange code being played through their computer systems. After deciphering the code, they are shocked to find that the sphere is communicating with them! Or is it? A number of strange and terrifying events occur and certain members of the team are killed in bizarre accidents. Seemingly playing on their fears, the sphere causes the remaining members of the team to distrust one another which results in even further distressing situations. Eventually, key members of the team figure out what is happening and make a last ditch effort to escape.
“Sphere” is an exciting psychological thriller that keeps you guessing through most of the film. Is it the alien sphere or the team members that are the problem? What is real and what is not? Have all the team members been “inside” the sphere, or not? The film is also interspersed with moments of humor that help lighten the mood accordingly.
While not totally original in its concept (this film definitely borrowed elements from “Contact”, “The Abyss”, and other such sci-fi movies), the film contains many original elements and some fine acting. As with many films of this nature, I am always left wanting more information about the alien. The ending does answer some key questions, but will leave you curious nonetheless.
“Sphere” contains some offensive language (including taking the Lord’s name in vain) and some very intense scenes of psychological terror. The “death sequences” surprisingly lacked the gratuitous gallons of blood and creature ooze normally associated with this genre of films. What is shown is certainly shocking enough and may still be offensive to some. It is definitely not a film for children and adults will need to be discriminating due to the intensity of some scenes (the woman behind me in the theatre was so frightened on a couple occasions that she nearly kicked me out of my chair!).