Inalienable is a film with an intriguing premise, but not much else. While writer Walter Koenig (yes, Chekhov from Star Trek) is not quite up to the task of delivering a tightly paced science fiction courtroom drama, there is some interesting material here that's worth a look.
Eric Norris (Richard Hatch) is a scientist researching AIDS vaccines in monkeys. He's had a rough life. A few years previously, his wife and son died in a car accident when he, not paying enough attention to the road, ran into a deer. Ever since that day he has trudged through life, conducting his experiments and going through the motions, keeping everyone at arm's length, even his beautiful fellow researcher Amanda (Courtney Peldon). One day, his friend Andreas (Gary Graham), a local farmer, brings in a piece of meteorite that he found in a field.
Eric agrees to study the meteorite, which Andreas swears was translucent and slimy when he first saw it. Late that night, Eric drifts into sleep in his lab, and an alien creature, presumably hiding in the meteorite, burrows into his abdomen and begins to gestate. Before he realizes that he has an alien parasite living inside him, his personality takes a dramatically positive change. He's happy and vibrant. He buys a new car. He responds to the amorous advances of Amanda, takes her out to dinner, and into his bed. This ebullience may be a product of his parasite, manipulating his emotions, making him fall in love with Amanda so that they will sleep together, allowing the alien can harvest some of Eric's sperm.
Soon enough, there is a visible growth on Eric's abdomen, and he realizes that he is carrying an alien baby. But it turns out to share some of his DNA. It is, in effect, at least partially his offspring. He begins to develop parental feelings for the child, which he names Benjamin after its "birth". When the FBI takes Benjamin away for study and experimentation, Eric and Amanda launch a court case to have the alien freed into the custody of his "parent".
Much of the action of the film takes place in a courtroom, and here as well lies the philosophical question that drives the film. Does an alien with some percentage of human DNA count as a human being, thereby being granted the protections of the Constitution of the United States? An sticky question, one that Inalienable is sadly not up to the task of addressing. The cast of science fiction notables, including Marina Sirtis and Walter Koenig himself along with Hatch and Graham, can't seem to inject much life into the overwrought and often clunky dialogue, even though they have all in the past proven themselves to possess at least passable acting talent. Only film and television veteran Erick Avari really throws a sufficient portion of gusto into his performance, as paranoid attorney Howard Ellis. He really seems to be enjoying himself, which he seems to do in almost every film he's in. He manages to sound spontaneous and natural, in contrast to most of the other actors, who stumble through but constantly remind us that somebody wrote their dialogue.
And the dialogue is not the only problem with Inalienable. Much of the story feels forced and awkward, such as when Koenig's character Schilling reveals some information to Eric late in the film that reveals why he has so much animosity toward Eric. Wouldn't this have been better implied, or revealed in such a way that didn't so bluntly explain away a major character motivation? Other details (not starkly stated in dialogue) are often quite mysterious. Why does Eric continue for years to work for someone who clearly hates him? How is the alien able to grow "at an alarming rate" after its birth even though it refuses to eat? Why, for that matter, does Eric persist on viewing an alien, which looks like nothing so much as a be-tentacled burn victim, as his son?
The end result of the less than stellar dialogue, fuzzy plot and risibly bad effects is a muddled mess. The film lacks focus, bouncing from scene to scene with no coherent structure tying everything together. It feels rushed, and unpolished. All this being said, it does provide some mild entertainment, and at least hints at deep questions, though it merely scratches the surface of them. Inalienable is not a total loss, but should be viewed as a rental only, and with low expectations.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks pretty good. The image is bright and clear, and aside from some very minor grain visible on occasion, high quality.
The sound is in Dolby digital 2 channel, and does the job but is nothing special. Dialogue is always clear and distinct and no hiss or interference is audible. English subtitles are available, but there is no alternate language track.
The only extras included are trailers for Inalienable and Edges of Darkness, neither anything spectacular.
Inalienable has an interesting premise, with weighty implications and vast depths available for exploration and nuance. Unfortunately, the film only touches on these potential themes superficially, and not very artfully. Clunky dialogue, an awkward plot and largely ineffective performances (with the notable, and enjoyable exception of Erick Avari) give us a film that is much less than it could have been.