“Go back to Moscow while you still can.”
In 1979, Ridley Scott’s, Alien, hit the big screen and frightened audiences around the globe. It focused on what so many other films have done since — the mysterious abyss of our unknown universe. Besides Sigourney Weaver being one of the first to break the glass ceiling for female badasses, Alien was truly frightening, and made you wonder, is there life within our universe, and if so, are they friend or foe?. Alien’s inspiration for director Egor Abramenko’s newest film, Sputnik, is clear in this Russian sci-fi.
Sputnik transports us back to the era of the Cold War. A tumultuous time for both the U.S. and Russia, so implementing a gargantuan alien life force into the equation might not be the most ideal. The film begins when two Russian cosmonauts prepare for a descent to Earth only to figure out that something is lurking outside their capsule. The shadow across the window, and the banging on the metal, begins to instill fear in the two men. Suddenly, everything goes black, and the audience is left in the dark. Cut to the cosmonauts landing back in Russia. One of the men is at death’s door, while the other, Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov), emerges from the capsule covered in blood, disoriented, and with no memory of what happened. The military’s escalating concern over the situation causes them to enlist the help of Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), a doctor who will do anything, no matter how “against guidelines” the approach may be, to save her patient’s life. Colonel Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk), while ambiguous with his details, asks Tatyana for her assistance on the project, as he hints that something happened to the cosmonauts. While in lockdown at a military facility, the studies become more invasive as Tatyana soon finds out that Konstantin is playing host to an alien that seems hell bent on killing all in its path.
It’s a story that’s been done before. Chances are, even if you don’t like horror films, you’ve seen something similar to this gory alien-killing movie. But if a movie wants to find some notoriety in this genre, one must ask, what sets itself apart the others? Sputnik, while influenced by several sci-fi classics, takes those thrilling elements, and makes it their own. Akinshina and Fyodorov lead the cast of characters. However, as much as their performances are compelling, the characters lack that bit of intrigue that would have launched the story into another level. Sputnik tries to create a bit of drama between Konstantin and a family member, but including this piece of narrative only served to make the flow of the film feel a bit convoluted.
Abramenko, is a talent at building the intensity as the characters find themselves deeper down this rabbit hole of the unknown. It’s not so much the dialogue that makes Sputnik so thrilling, but rather the silence, and the slow build up, that will get the audience’s blood pumping. That, in combination with Oleg Karpachev’s score, brings out something truly terrifying.
While Sputnik is far from having the longevity of Alien or The Thing, it’s safe to say that it will scratch that sci-fi/horror itch. Maybe it’s the Russian aspect of it all — taking a look at the genre from their point of view. But with stellar performances, and a thrilling story, Sputnik is a solid sci-fi film on any scale.
Directed by: Egor Abramenko
Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Pyotr Fyodorov, Fedor Bondarchuk, and Anton Vasilev