The movie stars Sean Connery as Marshal William T. O'Niel, and Peter Boyle as the chief antagonist, Sheppard. Kika Markham plays O'Niel's wife Carol and Frances Sternhagen plays his sole ally, Doctor Lazarus.
In normal Front Projection, the image that passes through the one-way mirror is "soaked up" by black velvet, but in IntroVision the black velvet is replaced by another ScotchLite screen that reflects the same background image onto a third ScotchLite screen, this time in front of the actor. Because the same image arrives from two different sources (the mirror and the second ScotchLite screen) and is projected onto two different screens (one in front of and one behind the actor) the actor appears to interact with the background. This enabled Sean Connery's character to convincingly walk around miniature sets of the mining colony.
The film's working title was "Io" (the setting of the film), which was later changed because many people read it as the number 10, or "lo" ("low").
O'Niel follows the trail of the dealers which leads to the outpost's administrator, Sheppard, who has been bribing O'Niel's deputy Montone to turn a blind eye to the shipping and sale of the drug. O'Niel's wife, frustrated that he considers justice more important than his family, leaves him a message pleading with him to return with her to Earth. Meanwhile, Montone is found hanging in his closet, murdered by a dealer.
O'Niel confronts Sheppard, but the administrator smugly informs him that nobody else wants the drug shipments stopped; production is up, the workers are happy, the corporate owners (Con-Amalgamate) are also happy, therefore Sheppard is happy. O'Niel vows to expose the entire scheme. However, following a second confrontation, Sheppard contracts two assassins who are brought in on the next shuttle flight to murder O'Niel.
With the sole assistance of the outpost's doctor, Lazarus, O'Niel engages in a desperate kill-or-be-killed chase through the colony before dispatching the assassins.
In the final payoff scene, O'Niel strikes Sheppard. The film ends with a message sent to O'Niel's wife to the effect that he will indeed be joining her and his son for the long trip back to Earth.
Gary Arnold at the Washington Post had this to say: "In Outland, writer-director Peter Hyams has adapted the plot of High Noon to an intriguing sci-fi environment -- a huge titanium mine located on Io, a volcanic moon of Jupiter. But the conventions that worked for High Noon break down in the high-tech atmosphere of Outland and the story seems trite and dinky".
In the Boston Globe, Michael Blowen was more favorable: "The parallels between Outland and Fred Zinneman's 1952 western High Noon are apparent. Writer-director Peter Hyams has transported the characters and motifs from the dusty frontier town of Gary Cooper to the frontiers of space. While Hyams keeps the story barreling along, he also develops a corollary anticapitalist theme. IO is an outpost for exploitation, and it doesn't make any difference whether the miners are digging gold in the Colorado hills or titanium on Jupiter's moon, the greed of the corporate class will prevail. Outland marks the return of the classic western hero in a space helmet. His outfit has changed and his environment has expanded but he's still the same. When Connery stares down the barrel of that shotgun, you'd better smile".
And Desmond Ryan at the Philadelphia Inquirer called it: "A brilliant sci-fi Western. In many ways, Hyams has made a film that is more frightening than Alien , because he surmises that space will change us very little and the real monsters we are liable to encounter will be in the next space suit.
More recently Allmovie's Nick Sambides, Jr. had this to say: "Not much else is there, really. Though the special effects are good and Jerry Goldsmith's music has verve, the plot creaks along rather obviously, with the usual science fiction implausibilities. The addicted miners, for instance, die in gruesome and terribly obvious ways, making one wonder why they would take the drug and why nobody else noticed its use".