Review by Sean Boelman
It’s not often that filmmakers make an old-school monster movie anymore, but Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko did just that with his new sci-fi horror flick Sputnik. Like Alien by way of The Wolfman, Abramenko’s movie may be a bit busy, but it’s entertaining and packed with interesting ideas.
The film follows a scientist who is tasked with studying a Russian cosmonaut, the sole survivor of a classified incident that occurred in space, and the mysterious parasite who uses his body as a host. With this simple but effective premise, writers Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev set up some effective thrills along with a discussion of the ethics of the movie’s politics.
Clocking in at nearly two hours long, the film does run a bit long, with the second act being the problem section. The first act is filled with intrigue as Abramenko builds this world, and the finale is enjoyably action-packed, but the middle of the movie struggles to either add more to the mythology or deliver the high-intensity scares.
That said, a big part of what makes the film work well is that the audience will legitimately care about the characters. The protagonist has an interesting arc involving her fighting internally between her duty to science, her duty to her country, and what she feels is ethically right in the situation.
However, the more compelling of the storylines involves the cosmonaut character as he explores what it means to be a hero. Some of the dialogue in reference to this theme isn’t particularly subtle, but the on-the-nose nature of the movie plays well with the retro ‘80s sci-fi feel for which the film is obviously going.
The acting in the movie is also quite strong. Oskana Akinshina and Pyotor Fyodorov both give performances that offer the film a strong emotional foundation. The true highlight of the movie, though, is Fedor Bondarchuk, who gives an over-the-top but very fitting performance as the military leader.
Additionally, the film is much better visually than one would expect given its independent nature. The production design does an excellent job of periodizing the movie into the Cold War era. Perhaps more impressive though is the fact that the CGI is excellent despite the film not having a Hollywood budget.
Sputnik is a fun and well-made sci-fi horror flick. While it does have a few issues, and it may be a tad overlong, there are plenty of great moments to make this an absolute must-see for fans of the genre.
Sputnik hits theaters and VOD on August 20.