The inhabitants of a tiny desert town in the South West U.S.A. are mysteriously killed around the area that a space probe has landed. A group of scientists are immediately assembled: Dr Stone (Arthur Hill), Dr Dutton (David Wayne), Dr Hall (James Olson) and Dr Leavitt (Kate Reid), and they begin to solve the problem of what has happened and how dangerous the situation is. They discover the space probe has brought back some kind of deadly virus - and it's growing.
Nelson Gidding stuck pretty closely to Michael Crichton's novel for this clinical science fiction thriller, with the emphasis on science, which turns into a race against time to stop the tiny space alien, named the Andromeda Strain, from spreading. Robert Wise and his team dressed up what is essentially an old sci-fi plot about beating the invader with excellent production design to create a credible, top secret, underground lab and Douglas Trumbull's effects crafted a believable interstellar menace of miniscule dimensions.
There are no stars in the film, and the scientists are brought to life with sketched-in character traits. Dr Hall and Dr Leavitt are the rebellious ones, either making sardonic comments or feeling affronted that their personal freedom has been sacrificed at the authorities' needs. Dr Stone and Dr Dutton take a more objective view, siding with the government and concentrating on the job in hand. They each bring something to the situation, but also bring drawbacks to the situation.
The trouble is, the more they try to solve the problem, the worse they make it. Two survivors are left in the town, an old man with a stomach ulcer and a baby, and it's up to Dr Hall to work out why they haven't had their blood turned to powder like their fellow citizens. Meanwhile, as it is decided to drop an atomic bomb on the site to destroy all trace of the danger, Dr Dutton tests on animals (don't worry, it's convincingly faked) and Dr Leavitt and Dr Stone investigate a microscopic fragment found in the probe. All these factors lead to potential disaster.
As a story, it's more of a howdunnit than a whodunnit, as the scientists work towards the solution. Cleverly assembled, the film builds towards two revelations, both pointing the finger at humanity being the biggest threat to itself. As Andromeda mutates, the scientists manage to endanger the lives of everyone in the complex, and an exciting sequence follows where Hall battles against a laser security system to prevent a huge explosion. With its cold, businesslike look and a nice line in irony, The Andromeda Strain will satisfy you if you're after an original twist on a familiar story. Great electronic music by Gil Melle. "What do we do?"