The SyFy network, aside from putting out terrible mutant shark movies, has recently dabbled in distributing titles of moderately elevated quality. They previously put out the average science fiction thriller, 400 Days, which was at least something other than a nature gone ridiculously wrong snoozer--although it was still kind of a snoozer. Atomica finds the network taking another step in the right direction--even if it is a baby step.
Atomica opens with a massive info dump about nuclear meltdown in the near future that leads to an energy revolution around the year 2025. At the center of the revolution is the Auxilisun corporation that has developed a large nuclear fission engine within the meltdown zone that turns the radiation into renewable energy. This was so successful that these facilities are being constructed all over the world and needing only two human bodies to operate (a facilities manager and a high ranking scientist). When Auxilisun's original facility's communications go down on Christmas day it's up to an ambitious tech engineer, Abby (Sarah Habel) to go out and diagnose the issue and get the facility up and running again. Once there, she begins to question the sanity of the facility's manager, Robinson (Dominic Monaghan) as well as the morality of her corporate overlords intentions with the facility.
Keeping things contained in a single location--various sets, but almost the entirety of the film is set within the nuclear facility or the surrounding desert. The complex machinery and vast hallways make for some effective settings in which the character's interact, but its as though there was no room left in the tank to include interesting ways for the characters to interact. Monaghan and Habel chemistry is hit and miss. The two trade boring stories and half hearted pleasantries while Habel often rolls her eyes at Monaghan's constant rambling--usually reporting back on her video diary her displeasure with whoever hired him. Apart from that the majority of the script is tech jargon revolving around calibrations and various other hashtagable nerd vocabulary words.
Therein lies the problem. The film spends so much time on these two characters when neither of them has much going on. Habel's performance is bland and robotic while Monaghan for all his accented charms just can't quite elevate the material. The arrival of Tom Sizemore as the missing Dr. Zek adds a bit of intrigue and mystery to the plot, but at that point it's too little to late. Phony attempts at force-feeding backstory into Habel's character go nowhere and the film just kind of fizzles out after a nice buildup of conflict.
SyFy's wouldn't be SyFy without some of the trademark bargain bin special effects--used mostly and terribly during the final moments. There's just enough ambition on display to give SyFy Films kudos for trying something a little different, however there just isn't enough flair to make the movie stand out. Atomica flirts with an interesting premise but wallows around in the mundane for too long to be anything other than a watch it then forget it recommendation.