Science fiction thriller Infini is at its best early on, when it's an action movie set in outer space. Director Shane Abbess and co-writer Brian Cachia get a lot of mileage out of a distractingly derivative rescue-mission-gone-wrong plot by throwing viewers into the middle of the action, introducing the film's world while a military unit searches the abandoned Infini mining station for missing colleague Whit Carmichael (Daniel MacPherson) -- and discovers an alien presence.
But as the film progresses, Abbess and Cachia fumblingly lay out Infini's heavy main theme -- is there more to life than blind self-preservation? -- through shrill, uninvolving confrontations. Indistinct, testosterone-crazed soldiers yell at each other, go stir-crazy, and then attack anything that moves (including themselves), suggesting a humorless and dramatically inert variation on George Romero's earlier zombie films.
Thankfully, Infini is impressive when it's more like Aliens than Alien (Carmichael even quotes the original Alien by calling his mysterious pursuer "the perfect organism"). Thoughtfully lensed and well-paced scenes of rising action are genuinely tense, like the one where a gun-toting astronaut is interrogated by an unidentified presence through a newly activated computer terminal.
And it's exciting to watch Carmichael distinguish himself from the disposable protagonists as a sympathetically reluctant, Ripley-esque hero, particularly in the scene where one character passive-aggressively taunts him for going to extraordinary lengths to protect himself from a foreign contagion. Infini doesn't go anywhere that superior science fiction films haven't already, but for a while, it's exciting enough to feel brand-new.