A team of professionals led by Dustin Hoffman's Norman are brought in for reasons that aren't explained to them until it's too late to say no. They learn a spacecraft has been discovered--under 300 years' of coral. It's soon discovered that they were selected because of a report Norman wrote for the government years ago that was, shall we say, less than honest. Beth (Sharon Stone), Harry (Samuel L. Jackson), and Ted (Liev Scheiber) handle that information a lot better then I would have. Stuck with an alien at the bottom of the ocean because some effer fabricated a bogus first-contact plan for the money?
The alien wouldn't have a chance to kill him.
(Also, I'm not a huge Hoffman fan. Dude mumbles. Drives me crazy.)
Once again, we have a perfect example of the military stomping around, ignoring anyone and everything but their mission. Unsurprising. Military aside (and I can't believe Queen Latifah has such a small, unimportant role,) the chemistry among the main cast is fantastic. It's clear early on that they have a history, which creates excellent tension--and that's before they're put in a tin can and whisked to a place where their survival depends on trusting each other.
I like the way the movie is divided into sections (ie: The Spacecraft, The Sphere, etc.) because it guides viewers along and controls the pace. Sphere also has both good comedic moments (using helium to decompress, for example) and brilliant scares (the sea snake still terrifies me, even twenty years after seeing it in the cinema.) The effects are solid and believable. Over all, Sphere is shot well and entertaining.
So... what don't I like about it? (You knew that was coming.) Well, Beth supposedly has a history of mental illness--though you're given just enough backstory to suspect that Norman (her doctor) fibbed about that as well. The moment shit hits the fan, Mr. Military (Peter Coyote's Barnes) immediately starts sowing seeds of doubt about Beth's ability to handle the situation. Later, when the alien life form finds its way onto their base, Harry takes over with raised eyebrows and pointed looks.
Hey, everybody, don't trust her, she's mental.
Ugh. Like I don't have to put up with that enough in my own life!
Despite what Dictator Trump would have you believe, mental illness does not make you inherently dangerous, people!
Okay, sorry. Back to the story.
Naturally, with other men telling him not to trust Beth, Norman--who, by the way is the reason she has a problem in the first place--starts to believe she can't be trusted. Typical.
I find it interesting that the character with a mental illness is a woman. There's a good question here: is Beth untrustworthy only because she has a history of mental illness, or because she's a woman? Answers on a postcard, please.
Gotta say, I don't think Norman's such a great psychiatrist. He's supposed to be a master of the human mind and he does have moments of brilliance but, for the most part, he misreads situations, misses important clues, and does a terrible job of keeping the child-like alien from throwing a tantrum that threatens to destroy them all.
Sounds about like every shrink the NHS has sent me to!
Fast forward and you've got three humans with the power to change reality with their minds (kind of like the one Trump thinks he has.) The way they deal with it is the nice, kumbaya option. Oh, and by the way, I couldn't help but notice that the black man and the woman are like, "Fuck this. We can't handle this power!" while the white man is like, "Now, hang on a minute... let's talk about this."
Here's my issue with the ending: if they understood the power that they had, why not just think happy thoughts? They could have done wonderful things for the world, even in the short-term. Worried about the military dissecting you for it? Think they won't! And, honestly, I don't believe all three people would agree to forget. You just know that someone (I'm looking at you, Norman) would pretend he did but keep using the power.
Until I watched it again, I'd forgotten how much I like Sphere. It's nowhere near as confusing as some reviewers claim it is. Everything is explained well and it's clearly sign-posted all the way through. Sphere does run over two hours but it doesn't feel like it. The movie is so engaging that it flies by. It's got pretty awful ratings anywhere you look and I just don't understand that because I love Sphere. Love or hate it? Let me know.