Let’s go to Soviet Russia.
Sputnik is a new sci-fi/horror film from Russia that showcases some excellent effects and interesting characters. We follow Tatyana, a doctor who is willing to bend the rules, as she investigates what happened to two cosmonauts when they reentered Earth.
We begin the film with meeting our cosmonauts. Konstantin and Kirill seem to be friendly with each other, but after they see something outside the ship all hell breaks loose. Cut to the landing site, and we find Kirill dead and Konstantin suffering from amnesia.
Colonel Semiradov leads a secret research facility trying to figure out what the hell happened and brings in Tatyana to work on removing an alien entity that emerges from Konstantin when he sleeps—without the host being aware.
The set up of the film is cool and the pacing is down in a way that keeps things moving. We nary have a dull moment as Tatyana works to uncover the mystery of what happened while beginning to question what Semiradov actually wants.
The hushed tones of conspiracy and fears of state oppression are ever present. Even the set design is cold, impassive, and claustrophobic. Fear becomes a major theme of the movie and they nailed the atmosphere of paranoia in a way that allowed the characters to develop organically. From an acting and writing perspective, this one does a damn good job of keeping the tight narrative together.
Where the film lacks a little bit is that we end up with only a couple ways the story can realistically go. Similar films have come and gone over the years (the most recent being The Shape of Water) and despite differences in the story construction, the beats remain the same.
I don’t want to say the story paints itself into a corner—it doesn’t. However, this type of story ultimately ends in a predictable way. (I don’t want to give spoilers so forgive the vagueness). What this familiarity does is make the final act kind of drag. We know what is going to happen and are simply waiting for the resolution.
I do have some other gripes with the film, but almost all of them come in the final act where our moral discussions and considerations go out the window when it is convenient for the characters. Granted, this needed to happen to make the final act provide the needed oomph that audiences want in this sort of story.
The effects are quite good. If I had to guess, I would imagine they used some puppetry because overall it looks good. The added in digital blood doesn’t always work, but mostly this is a sharp looking film.
The best part of this movie is that we have a film that takes itself seriously. There is no campy garbage here. While the story does falter a bit, I think fans of similar films will feel right at home.
Worth a rental.