Earth is doomed and you only have four days to make it to the last ship leaving the planet. It’ll be no easy task with a limited supply of oxygen and a curtain of deadly smog blocking your path. IO, with its post-apocalyptic setting, teases a survival journey across a hellish landscape but will leave you wanting more.
A dramatic change in Earth’s atmospheric composition leaves the planet a desolate wasteland. Almost all life is extinct and abandoned cities haunt the landscape. After a mass exodus, humanity has set up a new colony on a power station orbiting Jupiter’s volcanic moon of IO.
Sam (Margaret Qualley), a research assistant working out of an old mountaintop observatory, is one of the last people on Earth. She spends her time running environmental tests and traversing the dead zones to scavenge supplies. Every day is a fight for survival due to the poisonous smog that covers most of the planet.
Things quickly escalate when Sam is notified by a friend at the colony that all remaining exodus ships on Earth will launch in four days. Adding to her problems is Micah (Anthony Mackie), a mysterious man who lands his hot air balloon at the observatory looking for her father.
With the clock ticking, the two will have to decide if they will be staying, or risk the journey to the ship preparing to launch.
Sam’s introduction of her wandering through the smog-filled city looks amazing. The divide between the habitable and dead zones is distinctly marked as she travels between the two areas.
The dead zone is filled with dilapidated buildings, abandoned cars, and an unnerving dead silence. The habitable zone is clear with signs of vegetation and offers a terrifying view of the never-ending poison cloud below.
The observatory Sam calls home is filled with technical equipment, and a large telescope she uses to keep an eye on the human colony. Everything Sam does or interacts with has a purpose in this world.
With a vast array of lab equipment, she races to save the planet, but her efforts keep coming up as failures. She’s made extreme sacrifices and now must decide if she’s willing to abandon all her research.
The shift in the tone and pacing undergoes a noticeable change, as Micah’s balloon touches down at the observatory. The entire story turns into a let’s get to know each other affair. The looming crisis of being stuck on Earth with no chance to leave seems to be lost on Sam and Micah.
The film teases an against all odds adventure that does not deliver. A great example would be Sam and Micah needing to scavenge for a vital resource.
Sam describes its location as being the furthest she’ll have ever been, and there’s a good chance neither of them will survive. A few scenes later, in anti-climactic form, Sam and Micah drive up to the building in question and casually start loading supplies.
IO is an average post-apocalyptic story that could have been more. The introduction to the dying world is detailed and will have audiences hooked. The slow pacing through the second act loses the luster of the beginning and drags the rest of the film down.