MOVIE REVIEW: Sputnik (спутник)

August 4, 2020

Already a hit in its homeland of Russia, this sci-fi horror lands here for streaming on August 14.

 

It could be said that this affair straddles both sci-fi and horror elements for most of its running time, tipping over into full horror as it reaches its conclusion. We are in familiar territory, but it has the distinct advantage of being drenched in cultural atmosphere, with plot strands that could only really be centred around the Soviet Union, especially with the ’80s paranoia being such an essential element.

 

Two astronauts land, one dead on arrival. The remaining man is taken in for observation, and although the public are given the impression he is a hero deserving of a hero’s welcome, the scientists and army see a different story, for he has not come back alone! The alien form we are introduced to, as we go along, could simply have hitched a ride inside him, or something more sinister. Is the relationship between man and host more symbiotic than it seems? And is that guest merely feeding off what he eats?

 

The question of sharing is analysed, also personal responsibility and, perhaps more importantly, the use of force. That old argument of who has the power can control the peace is brought up and it does make you think about one-upmanship on a worldwide gaming board. The alien here is seen as a weapon and nothing more. Not for a minute do you believe claims of peace being their main aim.

 

As the secrets are revealed, the situation gets more tense, building to the inevitable breaking out scene. After all, the man is not just a host, he has a child, a life. Remaining captured, as he is, produces a dilemma for our protagonist. She is a giving soul, forever trying to help everybody, in a world where helping others is looked down upon, if it contradicts the greater needs. The problem being that, without him, the alien will attack; without the alien he will perish. They are becoming one, and together they may be too much for anyone to control.

 

The good and bad aspects of the movie are more or less merged too: the soundtrack being effective, but far too many times overusing that painfully clichéd ‘atmospheric’ drone often found in trailers - you know, the one that signals shit is about to get real. The alien itself is nicely realised, however it is too reminiscent of the Independence Day alien and other similar designs. There is a stiff feel, and stuffiness to the whole film, that both works in its favour, and detracts too. Reasonably involving, and with a kicker of a subtle twist that digs into you even after the credits have rolled.

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