The survivors of a spaceship wreck face internal danger and alien peril.
Low-budget this may be, but it's evident from the word go that writer/director Twohy has wrung every last drop from it the opening crash sequence being an object lesson in how to manufacture shell-shocking, sci-fi thrills from tuppence-ha'penny: a fingernail-tearing, neck-wrenching ride into nose-dive terror, made all the more effective for its lack of warning and the unfamiliarity of the passengers there's no comfy assurance that any of these people might make it to the second reel.
Indeed, casting an ensemble unburdened by former role recognition is one of Pitch Black's primary strengths forcing the viewer to take them at face value, this face value. So, Mitchell is sexy and stubborn as the pilot suddenly thrust into command, Hauser looks (and, at times, acts) like a young Tom Berenger, and David is solid as the faithful holy man. It's Diesel on show-stealing form, though: a voice growling like granite in a vice and his sheer, bulging presence perfect for the fearsome, serial-escapee, psycho convict.
And before you know it (provided you're so inclined), you're wrapped up in the race-against-time repair job hampered by the ongoing battle for basic survival and sanity in a blinding, hostile alien environment. On this front, Twohy (with director of photography, David Eggby) again scores by creating a stylish look for the piece. Bleached by the glare from the planet's three suns, there is perpetual daylight, although chronology is adhered to in a world without night by changing colours the strongest star throwing a searing blue tinge, the other two combining for a burnished, day-long sunset effect. And though the script clangs alarmingly early on (a few one-liners are allowed to fall flat by poor delivery or poorer reaction), the movie seems to grow in confidence, with the odd flash of gore to keep the horror fans sated but the tension wisely cranked increasingly taut.
There's no time for stragglers as the film cracks on apace, trimmed of any and every extraneous linking scene. It's far more concerned, in fact, with bombarding its audience with artful visuals and brutal, thumbnail confrontation scenes than spoon-feeding unnecessary character exposition.
Don't let The Chronicles Of Riddick put you off this is filmmaking that's lean, mean and (in Diesel) boasts one hell of a fighting machine.