I’m a huge fan of sci-fi because of the themes and messages that you can “trojan-horse” into the stories, and a huge strength of The Vast Of Night was feeding the audience those messages through the minor characters. For example, the character of Billy, a caller into the radio station, was a black ex-military man who was stationed in the desert on a secret assignment for the government. Billy was chosen specifically because he was a black man so that they could keep the assignment a secret. Since he was black and it’s set in the 50s, not only was he “disposable” to the government (I assume they knew that these soldiers would get sick) but if they ever said anything, the public wouldn’t believe him. Obviously we’re still fighting for black lives in 2021, so this character seemed to be the perfect instrument for the genre to do what it does best.
It felt especially “science-fiction-y” because it was set in the 50s, but the dialogue was extremely contemporary. Of course, there was a reference to Elvis, but other than that, the language was very modern. There were a few other references that I thought were cool though, like the radio station being called WOTW (like War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, another piece of alien media I’m a fan of.) The movie just didn’t feel very ’50s, even though narratively, it wouldn’t work in just about any other time period.
The main male protagonist, Everett, played by Jake Horowitz, was witty and fun to watch for the first act of the movie, and afterward, he just became a blank canvas for the genre, which I prefer. Men shouldn’t have too much dialogue in a movie or else I just tune out. It’s their shrill little voices.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a technical film person. I wouldn’t be able to spot the super-complex-magical-one-in-a-million-shot if it bit me in the ass. I’m a writer, so I’m more into the characters, the plot, the STORY STRUCTURE! That being said, once I read about the ten-minute long one-take shot with Fay, played by Sierra McCormick, I had to go back and look. Sure enough, it was lovely. If I didn’t come from a theatre background, I would be very, very impressed. I understand that in the film world you get multiple takes, and on average there are dozens of shots for a single scene, but theatre performers do it in one take 8 times a week (well, when there isn’t a global pandemic happening) so I’m only very impressed by it. Just one “very.”
Overall I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It’s hard for me to sit down and watch “serious” movies or TV, but I liked it.