Original name: Спутник
Russia, 2020, Sci-Fi/Horror
Director: Egor Abramenko.
Cast: Oksana Akinshina (Tatyana Klimova), Fedor Bondarchuk (Colonel Semiradov), Pyotr Fyodorov (Konstantin Veshnyakov)
Russia most watched
Sputnik is a Russian production that was released in 2020 on the streaming services of that country and became the most-watched movie on those services in the last two years. Originally its premiere was going to be at the Tribeca Film Festival but the Covid pandemic prevented it. That is a good presentation card for this Sci-Fi film that is set in the USSR in the middle of the cold war. Something unusual in the films of the genre.
Cold war setting
In 1983, two Russian cosmonauts prepare to return to earth after a mission in space. But surprisingly they see something alive moving outside their capsule. When the capsule returns to earth only one has survived: Konstantin Veshnyakov, now considered a national hero. The psychologist Tatyana Klimova, who is being questioned for her extreme methods, is recruited by Colonel Semiradov. Apparently, she has to check and examine the mental state of Konstantin, who is in quarantine. Once in the investigation complex, it does not take long for Dr. Klimova to learn the real problem: Konstantin brought inside himself an alien. This being lives within Konstantin in a symbiotic relationship and Semiradov requires Klimova to separate this being from him.
Hits and misses
Reviewing themes already used in movies like Lifeforce (Tobe Hooper 1985) or The Astronaut’s Wife (Rand Ravich 1999), Sputnik does not offer anything new to the genre besides the setting, but we could argue that they do it in a more convincing way.. In true Russian style, the story unfolds slowly but surely. The story has elements of a thriller and in its second part, some melodrama, leaving aside the action, which is little.
The success of the film is to effectively show the secrecy and latent fear of the population towards the rigid communist bureaucratic system of the USSR in the cold war. They make a good attempt to give the characters some depth and this makes us, as viewers have a certain level of empathy for them. But the script is very linear. There aren’t many high points in the story, although there aren’t any lows. A flat line. Somewhat entertaining to watch, but no many surprises.
All three main actors are solid in their roles. Oksana Akinshina is completely credible in her role as the strong heroine, seemingly impassive but empathetic Dra Klimova. Pyotr Fyodorov correctly plays the cocky but at the same time confused Konstantin. For his part, Fedor Bondarchuck gives us an experienced and seasoned USSR officer in his portrayal of Colonel Semiradov. This combination of good performances makes the viewer not lose interest in the story, as they give it credibility.
True depiction of the era.
The cinematography is dark and full of shadows. They also strive to emphasize the typical brutalist architecture very fashionable in the USSR of that time. These elements provide a realistic and soulless aesthetic, completely according to the era and place. The alien’s special effects are effective, though not always entirely convincing. The image of this symbiote can be cartoonish at times. Although they managed very well to capture the movements of the beast and successfully embued a threatening predatory danger to it.
A nice change
A solid presentation in the genre. The change of environment is always welcome, and the re-enactment of Cold War socialist Russia was very well accomplished. The actors competently represent the characters and maintain the interest of the viewer to a greater extent than the script, which is ordinary, flat, but effective. Certainly, they could introduce a little more action and intrigue. The build-up was much more interesting than the conclusion, which fell into generic clichés. This film is more for fans of the sci-fi/horror genre and a nice change from the Hollywood production, but by no means memorable.
A solid entry in the Sci-Fi Horror genre. Nice settings of the cold war URSS and credible acting leads. Flat. The script lacks highs points but there are no lows.