I shall try my level-headed best to sum up the plot of the conspiracy thriller Rumor From Ground Control, but after watching the film, I am left perplexed. I’m still trying to piece together how the characters relate to each other, let alone find the logic in how the big reveal changes anything. Here’s what I can state with certainty-
The Foundation For Future Earth, headed by Gena Prescott (Nakia Secrest), is a very secretive pseudo-religious, pseudo-scientific institution. They have numerous restrictions on what employees and members can divulge to the public. Years ago, a crew of astronauts experienced a systems failure on their shuttle and were bombarded by cosmic rays. Most of them were killed right away, and those who did survive became gravely ill.
Now, Nevin Vance (Marc Anthony Samuel) contacts high-minded reporter Erika Grasen (Lexi Moeller) with video evidence that the explosion was not as it appeared. He also points her towards a paper trail of hush money and corruption, reaching all the way to the highest levels of the Foundation. As Erika, and her cameraman Jeffrey (Chase McGuire), connect the dots they are led to Adrienne (Mary Manofsky), who is a librarian.
They also come across Marilyn (Amy Goddard), Nevin’s mom. She is livid with her son for tipping off the journalists, as the Foundation has paid them handsomely throughout the years. Finally, whistleblower Karen (Megan Le) who works at the financial institution that paid out the illegal hush money on the Foundation’s behalf (I think; otherwise I have no idea where she works or their place in all this). She promises hard evidence, of the money payments, made by her boss and lover, Baxter Aleks (Michael B. Silver).
“…a crew of astronauts experienced a systems failure…and were bombarded by cosmic rays.”
All the while Sam (Pete Gardener), their editor-in-chief, is coming down on Erika and Jeffrey for falling behind on their deadline. Not to mention the lack of credible witnesses and only have circumstantial evidence to back up the claims presented in the various drafts of their investigative report. All of that is before people tangentially related to the death of the astronauts start turning up dead. Who is willing to kill to keep this information hidden? What does Gena Prescott have to do with anything presented here?
Rumor From Ground Control is written and directed by Seaton Lin, in his feature-length debut. Writing-wise, the movie proves too convoluted for its own good. Karen and Baxter are having an affair, while his wife is pregnant, but this does not add anything substantial or relevant to the proceedings. Nevin’s rationale for coming to Erika now, years after the fact, is tenuous at best. Marilyn is Nevin’s mom and is paid off by the Foundation, so her place in the story makes sense. What does not, though, is why she is against her son trying to bring the truth (as nonsensical as it may be) to light. Then there’s Adrienne. With my life on the line, I’d be unable to explain who is she, her purpose to the plot, or how she met any other character in the film.
I am equally flummoxed by the truth of what the Foundation has been up to. While I don’t enjoy spoiling movies in reviews, in this case, it is inevitable. See, Gena Prescott does not exist. She is a computer generated spokesperson for the Foundation. Here’s what that adds to the mystery and cover-up about the astronauts; you know, the actual story being reported on- nothing at all. Not a single solitary thing about those astronauts and how they died is changed by her not being a real person. Since it is only brought up in one scene and never talked about again, it is a remarkable waste of time. However, the narrative is so bewildering, it is possible that I entirely missed why it matters.
It is meant to set-up that the Foundation is capable of widespread image manipulation. However, it wouldn’t strain credulity to just say outright that a company this powerful can do that sort of thing, as viewers probably inferred such. See, the Foundation performed unsanctioned experiments on people regarding the effects of the solar radiation on the body. The whole space mission was a ruse, a way to kill those people without the illegal studies coming to light.
“…you’ll be on the edge of your seat, hoping the photographer escapes.”
If I am following things correctly, and I am probably not as this movie is too packed to make total sense, the faked space mission failure was also covered up, or something. Nevin has a line about how the mission failed and was covered up, which is baffling. However, I am still trying to make sense of how we are being introduced to brand new characters for almost an hour in, who serve little purpose.
With all that out of the way, Seaton Lin is a solid director. While I can’t explain why anyone did anything in this movie, sequences are often thrilling and intense. Scoping out Baxter’s office, Erika and Jeffrey see him loading boxes upon boxes of files into his car. Jeffrey runs up to the vehicle and takes photos of the files. The editing builds the tension beautifully, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat, hoping the photographer escapes.
Most of the movie is equally as intense and engaging, from a sheer spectacle point of view. Immeasurably helping is the acting from the quite capable cast. They are believable and make the confusing plot sound somewhat plausible.
Roger Ebert ends his review of the 1996 action film Chain Reaction with the following sentence, “By movie’s end, I’d seen some swell photography and witnessed some thrilling chase scenes, but when it came to understanding the movie, I didn’t have a clue.” I cannot put my thoughts toward Rumor From Ground Control any better. I don’t understand what I watched, but I recognize the artistry in it.
Rumor From Ground Control (2018) Directed by Seaton Lin. Written by Seaton Lin. Starring Michael B. Silver, Pete Gardner, Megan Le, Mary Manofsky, Marc Anthony Samuel, Nakia Secrest, Amy Goddard, Lexi Moeller, Chase McGuire.
6 Gummi Bears (out of 10 stars)