Director: Egor Abramenko
Writers: Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev
Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov
Genre: Sci-Fi / Thriller
A controversial young doctor (Akinshina) is summoned to a secluded Russian research facility to psychologically examine a cosmonaut (Fyodorov) who was the lone survivor of an incident during his spaceship’s return to earth – to discover that living inside him is a potentially dangerous alien parasite.
Even before we were able to enter space there have been endless cautionary tales about the risks of exploring uncharted and unknown places and that we may well not only make a discovery that we dislike, but this may actually prove to be a genuine threat to the existence of humanity. Sputnik is very much a genre piece that may be about exploring uncharted territory, but ironically the narrative goes to anywhere but uncharted territory in terms of what happens within the story. However, all involved seem to be very much aware of this and despite the generic nature of its initial premise, Sputnik is a very watchable, entertaining and gripping enough slow-burn sci-fi thriller that is happy to rely on cerebral discussion, character development and intense atmosphere more than descending into any kind of an all-out gore-fest like so many films with a similar initial premise.
There are certainly a few points within the narrative where the film could just descend into the usual ‘hunt or be hunted’ concept of so many films of the same genre, but it does maintain its consistency and keeps things at a suitably slow pace so to build a very effective atmosphere, while it may certainly use some very familiar genre tropes (Alien being an obvious one, but a lot of the supposed science is not a million miles away from Venom) Sputnik does have some interesting ideas and concepts at the heart of its narrative to keep things interesting. There is also thrown in the added political themes of what it means to be a ‘hero’ of the Soviet Union and the paranoia that surrounded that time – though this is certainly not overly explored.
All involved never even attempt to re-invent the wheel, but instead seem to try to do what they are doing as effectively as possible, and so we have wide screen shots of the army bunker that capture its naturally repressive and soulless nature, a less-than subtle score by Oleg Karpachev and suitably grey and bleak cinematography by Maxim Zhukov. Meanwhile Oksana Akinshina (who I remember being in the bleak but unforgettable Lilya 4-Ever – if you haven’t seen it, then you really should!) gives a suitably stern and no-nonsense performance that allows her character to have a generic character arc.
As Sputnik enters its final third it does inevitably descend into cliché and some slightly questionable character decisions that drive the narrative, but it still manages to bring some refreshing elements to a familiar genre to emerge as a thoroughly enjoyable (if highly forgettable) genre piece.
An often unashamedly generic but enjoyable genre piece; Sputnik does have a few surprises up its sleeve, but its frequent use of genre clichés renders it ultimately a fun but rather forgettable sci-fi yarn.
At time of writing Sputnik is available to stream on various platforms