Futurists have been forecasting mining operations in outer space for some time now. Peter Hyams, who wrote and directed Hanover Street (1978) and Capricorn One (1977), has fashioned Outland around that prediction. William T. O'Niel (Sean Connery) is sent to be Federal District Marshall for Con-Am #27, a mining community on 10, a moon of Jupiter. There are 2,144 individuals living inside a silver gray city. Most of them are frontier types who have accepted the difficult jobs and the hardships of the confined living conditions in exchange for big money.
O'Niel's wife (Kika Markham) and son (Nicholas Barnes) leave shortly after he assumes his new job. She cannot tolerate the claustrophobic environment. The general manager of the mining operation, Sheppard (Peter Boyle), lectures the District Marshall about letting the workers have their fun, even if it means a few brawls now and then. But O'Niel decides there's something strange afoot when three men go berserk in quick succession. With a little investigation and the assistance of Dr. Marion Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen), the company physician, he learns that 28 workers have died suspiciously in the past six months.
It turns out that Sheppard, his cronies, and some of the security police are in on a sinister scheme to boost labor productivity. Without anyone to help him but the quick witted physician, O'Niel finds himself compelled to play the role of hero when two assassins hired to kill him appear on the scene.
This tightly constructed thriller resonates with High Noon and other one-man-against-the-system movies. Sean Connery carries his role with bravado and makes credible O'Niel's decision to take on the task in order to discover whether or not he is the man he thinks he is. Frances Sternhagen puts in a fine performance as his only supporter; her wit is a good foil for Connery's intensity. Outland works as a sturdy morality play set in an unusual environment.