Astronaut: The Last Push (2012) poster

Astronaut: The Last Push (2012)


aka The Last Push

USA. 2012.


Director/Screenplay – Eric Hayden, Story – Eric Hayden, Khary Paton & A.J. Raitano, Producers – Eric Hayden, Kimberly Hayden, Khary Paton & A.J. Raitano, Photography – A.J. Raitano, Music – Kimberly Hayden, Visual Effects – Xiao Tian. Production Company – TMA-1 Productions.


Khary Paton (Michael Forrest), Brian Baumgartner (Bob Jansen), Lance Henriksen (Walter Moffitt), James Madio (Nathan Miller), Alec Gillis (Charlie)


Whale-like lifeforms have been detected beneath the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa. With the NASA Space Mission having been dismantled years ago, Moffitt Industries funds a mission to investigate. Astronauts Michael Forrest and Nathan Miller are sent aboard the ship Life One in what will be a thirteen year return journey. Two years into the mission, Michael is woken from cryo-sleep to find that space debris has struck the ship and Nathan has been killed. With only he left alive and the main habitat of the ship damaged, mission control decide that the best recourse is to abandon Europa and for Michael to conduct a slingshot around Venus that will bring him back home. Through the course of the mission, Michael’s sanity begins to fray.

Astronaut: The Last Push, sometimes just abbreviated to The Last Push, was a directorial debut for Eric Hayden. In his day job, Hayden works in special and visual effects. He has credits on films such as Spider-Man (2002), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Team America: World Police (2004), Dragonball: Evolution (2009) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009), among others. He has worked for the Stan Winston Studio and Amalgamated Dynamics – the heads of the latter, Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr, both make acting appearances in the film, most notedly Gillis as the tv interviewer interviewing Lance Henriksen. This is the only film Hayden has made to date

Astronaut: The Last Push came out eighteen months before Gravity (2013). Gravity was a huge success that presaged a major rise in films about NASA and the Space Program set in a realistically-depicted Solar System. Astronaut: The Last Push anticipates that trend, although is made on a much lesser budget than Gravity had to hand. Nevertheless, it does impress with its realistic science and detailed animatics depicting how a slingshot through the Solar System would work.

If there is a film amongst the post-Gravity that this resembles, you could point to Approaching the Unknown (2016), which featured Mark Strong as a lone astronaut on a Mars mission losing his sanity as things go wrong. There are also similarities to Love (2011), another low-budget pre-Gravity film that came out around the same time with a lone astronaut stranded about the International Space Station after contact with Earth goes dead.

Khary Paton in Astronaut: The Last Push (2012)
Astronaut Khary Paton on a lone return journey to earth

Astronaut: The Last Push is a space mission film being conducted on a low budget. While there are some not too bad effects shots of the ship exteriors, most of the film takes place on a single set with only one actor (Khary Paton) present. (The other astronaut is killed soon into the story). There are a few other scenes with Lance Henriksen and that is about it. Even the Mission Control scenes have been reduced to being just one person on the end of a video monitor.

As with the criticism that is frequently made of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), watching people dealing with the tedium of a space mission on screen can be fairly dull. We get to spend over an hour watching Khary Paton go out of his mind, exercise and obsessively work on repairs. Where this perks up considerably is during the flyby of Venus where Eric Hayden gets to do what he does well – namely deliver visual effects in some stunning shots as the ship conducts transit of the planet’s orbit.

However, what kills the film is a frankly unbelievable ending where [PLOT SPOILERS] Khary Paton finally makes it back to Earth almost – only to abruptly decide to turn around and return to Europa and complete the mission. With the entire thrust of the story being his rescue and seeing him go out of his mind with loneliness, this seems either a crazed or suicidal move that is hard to swallow, especially when being pitched as a positive upbeat ending.

Trailer here

Full film available here

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