Approaching The Unknown (DVD) : Review


Approaching the Unknown deals with a topic that is at the fore of many documentary, and even news broadcast, these days. It details the story of William D. Stanaforth (Mark Strong – The Brothers Grimsby, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Imitation Game), who is set to be the first human to land on Mars. With Emily Maddox (Sanaa Lathan – Now You See Me 2) trailing in another craft, the only human contact Stanaforth has is with Emily, or Louis “Skinny” Skinner (Luke Wilson – Concussion) who sits back on Earth, able only to communicate via video message due to the time delay caused by the transit of the message.

The film is a cerebral journey, instilling on the viewer the same emotions, and isolation that Stanaforth experiences, as he goes about he daily routines. Paced in stages that seem to coincide with various elements of the onset of his cabin fever, the film is no fast paced action thriller. Instead, begging the question “is it worth journey”.

With a small, contained location in the spacecraft, and the many choices in set, colour grade and cinematography, there is a certain aspect of art in the visuals. Yet, one does not avoid the feeling that there is perhaps a little something missing. Whether this is a sympathetic emotion to the isolation of Stanaforth and Emily, or a shortcoming of the film, is best left as a matter of personal debate.

Approaching the Unknown is an enjoyable film, hitching a ride on the latest choice in popular culture of journeying to, or living upon the planet Mars. Well cast, the story is rather engrossing, and is sure to have a special appeal to those who have a penchant for science fiction, while still longing for purity that is actual science.


The disc is of a good quality overall, although devoid of any bonus material.

Approaching the Unknown is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.


Video is encoded at a high average bitrate. There are no visible artefacts on screen, nor any colour bleed. Owing to the rather stark locations in the film, the spacecraft and dessert, the film is rather devoid of many vibrant colours. This merely serves to strengthen the feeling of isolation that Stanaforth would be experiencing. In darker scenes, detail is maintained.

Viewers with the necessary hardware or software could scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.


Audio is encoded at a high average bitrate. Dialogue is clear via the centre speaker. This channel carries a large portion of the films soundtrack, with the front and surrounds serving the encapsulate the viewer in environmental sounds, giving the feeling of being along for the ride, in the spacecraft.


The main menu is a basic static image, with simple, easy to use navigation. The static background is accompanied by some music from the film.

The scenes sub-menus each contain four colour, motion-thumbnails. While these are numbered, they do not contain chapter titles, so there may be some difficulty navigating to a specific spot in the film.

Bonus Features

There are no additional features on the disc, save for trailers that auto-play at the beginning of the disc, for Genius, Hell or High Water and The 9th Life of Louis Drax.

These trailers can be fast-forwarded, or skipped.

By Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB, Andrew has worked full time in the film industry since the early 2000's. He has trained as an actor, completing his LAMDA Gold Medal, and attending many courses in Cape Town acting studios, with masterclasses with some of the international industries top directors, producers and filmmakers. Working as an actor and armourer in the film and television industry have given Andrew a great balance of skills across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry. Catch him on Twitter: Instagram: IMDb: