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Good indie sci-fi movies are few and far between. Science-fiction storytelling often requires extensive world building—future environments and all that—so the effects budget tends to be an issue for modestly funded filmmakers. The upside is that this restriction forces filmmakers to come up with innovative solutions, generating more interesting scripts and better movies. Such is the case with Prospect, a low-budget space Western that wrings some very cool sequences out of some very limited resources.

Clever and suspenseful, Prospect follows the grim, desperate work of a father-and-daughter scavenger team trapped on a verdant moon. Dad Damon (Jay Duplass) and his daughter Cee (Sophie Thatcher) barely make a living sifting through the castoffs of the corporate space miners who plunder outer-rim worlds for resources. Damon’s rickety space capsule hitches rides on passing freighters, dropping down to the surface through a blaze of atmospheric burn and alarming turbulence.

The grimy, low-tech space vibe is reminiscent of Firefly, Blade Runner, and the first Star Wars movie as well as the early novels of cyberpunk godfather William Gibson. With its ad-hoc weapons, hand-me-down spacesuits, and dubious space narcotics, Prospect presents a convincing picture of a desperate future.

There’s a traumatic twist early in Prospect, so stay away from synopsis and spoiler reviews on this one. But if you’re a science-fiction nerd, I can tell you there’s a lot to love here. The cinematography is excellent, revealing a forest moon of suffocating greens and decaying honey yellows, the foreground swirling with organic dust motes. A few modest but elegant digital effects complete the illusion as we see massive planets settling over the horizon.

The filmmakers have constructed a solid story from classic Western tropes, with future-tense claim jumpers, pilgrims, and hired guns wandering a lawless frontier. The weird little details pile up, the hexagonal rifle barrels and alien alphabets. The “gold” that everyone’s chasing is a marvelous invention in itself, an unsettling cross between ruby and egg that suggests an ecosystem where minerals and animals have converged.

Characterizations are a bit thin, but the performances are fine all around, and you’ll see some familiar faces from premium series like The Wire and Game of Thrones. Prospect is satisfying in that manner specific to well-done low-budget sci-fi—movies like Primer, Moon, Monsters, or the underrated British indie How I Live Now. Movies like this often go straight to VOD or unknowable digital markets, but thanks to a promising new distribution arrangement, you can see this one on the big screen at select theaters—in our case, Regal Crossroads in Cary.