Sputnik (2020)
Sputnik (2020)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: August 14th, 2020 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Egor Abramenko Actors: Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasilev, Albrecht Zander, Anna Nazarova

 


 

I

n 1983, the Orbita-4 spaceship successfully undocks, its mission reaching completion, while the two cosmonauts aboard discuss what they’ll do once they return home. After a brief utility module incident, in which the vessel spins out of control, some unknown organism is seen shuffling around outside – quite a shocking development for a craft so close to Earth’s orbit. And then, all radio contact is lost, nearly a day before their scheduled landing in Soviet Kazakhstan. When the two do touch down, copilot Kirill Averchenko is dead, his head likely mutilated by the wreckage of the pod, while Konstantin Sergeyevich Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) is bleeding badly and coughing up blood.

Konstantin suffers from PTSD and episodic amnesia, prompting Comrade Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) to quarantine the pilot in the All-Union Scientific Research Institute, run by Director Yan Rigel (Anton Vasilev), which is heavily fortified, classified, and appears as if a maximum security prison. Semiradov calls in the help of disgraced yet intuitive neuropsychiatrist Tatiana Yurievna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) to analyze the sole survivor, but not just to determine what happened up in space. As it so happens, Konstantin is also hosting some sort of parasite – or symbiote – that exits his body through his mouth in the dead of night for about two hours before returning, remaining dormant during the day. And while the enigmatic extraterrestrial is active, Konstantin forms no memories.

It’s no secret that “Sputnik” is a sci-fi thriller in the vein of “Alien” (or “Alien: Covenant,” more comparably), considering the introduction of a snakelike lifeform that resides inside a human body, while also creating parallels to “Arrival” when attempts to study and interact with the creature grow steadily more complex. Fascinatingly, there are just as many mysteries surrounding the parasite as there are the facility, which has convicts performing labor in various quarters (generating an atmosphere not unlike “Alien 3”). Keeping in line with standard sci-fi monster movies, human villains tend to be just as repulsive as the otherworldly intruder; antagonists are quick to sacrifice lives in the name of science. This is made more potent by excellent acting and an adherence to apposite severity; here, there’s no time for levity.

The look of the film is impressive (the visuals and the atmosphere are its greatest assets), making the most of dimly lit locales and labyrinthine corridors to craft several exquisitely suspenseful sequences. Some are indeed repetitive, though they’re aided by excessively dramatic, forceful music (by Oleg Karpachev) to amplify moments of violence, while confrontations with the beast tend to be action-packed. The creature itself isn’t wholly original (nor are most of its brutal undertakings), but at least its movements and slimy design fit nicely with the plot (the title is particularly keen, serving both as a reference to the famous, first low orbit satellite and as a literal translation, meaning “traveling companion”). The film clearly wants to be a hybrid of horror and adventure. But it also contains an unnecessary subplot (a twisty one that feels oddly insignificant, failing to shed insight other than in the final shots), unconvincing sloppiness with Semiradov’s actions, an inexplicably neat and tidy resolution for one of the main characters, and a finale that suggests that the writers weren’t entirely sure how best to end the film.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10