Sputnik Movie Review Nobody in Kazakhstan Will Hear Your Cry


In our country, science fiction and horror of the 80s are treated with special trepidation. Thanks to the VHS era, Alien, Predator, Terminator, and The Thing have grown to roughly two generations. American classics have become pretty “Russified” and have become the same part of our cultural code, like, for example, “The Diamond Hand”.

The highest form of flattery is imitation, and therefore it was only a matter of time when one of the filmmakers finally decided to express their love for films from the video with their own full-length homage. Or, as skeptics sarcastically say, "the answer." As soon as the Sputnik trailer came out, it seemed like it did happen.

The 1983 year. The Orbit-4 spacecraft returned to Earth, but something happened during the descent. As a result, one of the two cosmonauts is torn to pieces, and the other is unconscious. To assess the condition of the survivor, neurophysiologist Tatyana Klimova is brought from Moscow to an institute in Kazakhstan - a daring non-conformist whose career is about to sink due to a dangerous experience with a patient.

Pretty quickly, the girl learns that she was not called at all for the sake of a simple examination. In cosmonaut Veshnyakov, a predatory alien creature has settled, able to get out for a short time. But the parasite and the host cannot exist separately. Klimova is tasked with finding out how to finally extract an individual from Veshnyakov and at the same time save his life.

First of all, no - this is not Russian Alien, even if there are a couple of visual references to Ridley Scott's film in the film. With the tape "Live" also little in common. And there, the alien acted as the dominant force, and the main concern of the heroes was survival. But in "Sputnik" the alien creature is more a circumstance than a full participant in the events.

The monster sometimes appears and even eats someone, but those who expected a dynamic sci-fi horror from the movie will be the most disappointed. Before us is, in fact, a conversational thriller, almost a play.

In total, there are three participants in it, in addition to Tatyana: Colonel Semiradov, who invited her, is surprisingly progressive for a security officer, the scientist Rigel, hysterical and jealous, and the cosmonaut Veshnyakov, who carries a monster inside him. Along the way, the main character has to figure out which of them to believe, which side to take, and what, in fact, to do with the alien.

Sputnik (2020) Movie Review

This format assumes that the relationship between characters, dialogue, and the story is much more important than a rare action. This is a great solution if the budget for Aliens is not enough, and you really want to try your hand at science fiction.

The problem is that in such a scenario, the requirements for the script increase considerably, and in Sputnik it is at least not perfect. The authors of the film are Andrey Zolotarev and Oleg Malovichko. The first worked on the good Icebreaker and the disgusting Dancing to Death, the second on the hit series Method and the failed Night Watchmen, and together they wrote The Attraction, Invasion, and the musical dilogy Ice... Even a quick glance at these track records is enough to realize that both writers adore the same thing - Hollywood clichés.

Time-tested plot moves are used by them without any hesitation and with minimal adaptation to Russian or, in the case of Sputnik, Soviet realities. The characters speak and behave in the same way as their many prototypes from those very VHS films, which intuitively feels wrong.

If you include in parallel any tape of the perestroika period, you will understand that even in the characters of "Chernobyl" from HBO there are more of Soviet citizens than in the main characters of "Sputnik". However, some of the spectators may not be distracted at all.

Much more damaging to the film is that clichés become the main driving force of the story. 

Characters do these or those actions not because the situation requires it, but as if because the genre requires it. Because heroes of a similar archetype have done so in other films, and motivation can go through the forest in an embrace with logic.

Well, if the points in the script do not connect elegantly, then they are sewn together for profit because the film is full of moments that can be accompanied by a memetic "oh, how convenient!" Here there is blind and deaf security, and sudden insights, and the presence in the Kazakh laboratory of all the necessary components for creating a specific drug almost on the knee, and much more.

But with all the jambs, purely technically, "Sputnik" is made soundly. The debut of chipmaker Yegor Abramenko looks not so much an homage to the fiction of the 80s as a stylization of fashionable art-horror films produced by the A24 company.

The picture is verified, with a well-built frame composition and cool colors. The atmosphere is thick and oppressive, largely due to the central location - an institution built in the best traditions of Soviet brutalism. In some places, the creators even manage to catch up with suspense, especially in the scene of the first contact with the creature.

SPUTNIK Official Trailer (2020) Alien Horror Movie

She, by the way, is drawn and animated much better than in the first trailer. Of course, there is not much to compare with, but so far this is the best CGI creature in Russian cinema. Yes, the design is secondary, but it meets the needs of the plot: the alien must be both disgusting and cute, and hypothetically capable of getting out of the carrier, But, as already noted, the main thing in Sputnik is not an alien, but people.

And there are no problems with them, in general, at least in terms of acting. Oksana Akinshina, as she was, and remains one of the best Russian actresses, regardless of the genre, and Pyotr Fedorov habitually plays a nervous soldier.

The scientist Yagel performed by Anton Vasiliev and Colonel Semiradov, played by Fyodor Bondarchuk in a funny wig, turned out to be more caricature, but at the same time more colorful. But they, again, are constrained by the framework of the script, where instead of characters - archetypes, and instead of characters - biographies.

So, in the film, there is a whole storyline with a child in an orphanage, which, in theory, should make the audience look at one of the heroes in a different way. But it doesn't. It can be cut out entirely, and this will not affect either the plot or the images.

Tweak the script, better spell out the characters, add more bloody action, and "Sputnik" could be called an excellent fantasy thriller. But this is just a more or less competent film of category B. Had it emerged in the VHS era, it would hardly have become a classic, but perhaps it has found its audience.

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