Sputnik Movie Review
E.T. isn’t so friendly in the Russian sci-fi thriller Sputnik, about a cosmonaut who returns from space with a special symbiotic relationship. Effectively intriguing though more heavy on talk than you’d want from a monster feature, Sputnik has the components of high-grade sci-fi even if it never achieves full orbit.
The movie serves as a notable feature-length debut for director Egor Abramenko. Well executed and smartly told, Sputnik absolutely defies its $3 million budget (if my conversion from rubles is accurate) in every facet of its production. Visually slick, vibrantly shot, and suberly cast, Sputnik looks and feels like a much bigger movie.
Oksana Akinshina is excellent as Tatyana, a psychologist brought into a secret government facility to assess the inflicted cosmonaut--who pukes out the symbiotic life form every night. She has great chemistry with Pyotr Fyodoro, who plays cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov; the two serve as a strong pair of protagonists and bring their characters to life in a believable, engaging way. The rest of the cast is well suited for their respective roles.
Equally impressive is the creature design. It’s seemingly harder and harder for filmmakers to come up with unique monsters, but the one in Sputnik not only looks great but is handled in a compelling, memorable way. Brought to life by excellent special effects, the monster is frightening and grotesque.
It’s a shame the monster isn’t utilized to its fullest potential. As well made as Sputnik is, the movie has a lot of talking and not much else. Where there are a few scenes that really depict the creature in its full likeness, Abramenko seems more interested in the scientific analysis of the creature than the creature itself. Set within the confines of a Soviet base, the movie had the opportunity to ratchet up the terror or action in its final act--but neither happen. As scary as the monster looks, Abramenko never actually makes the monster scary.
It’s a real shortcoming of the film, one that inhibits Sputnik from being anything more than a run-of-the-mill experience. There’s a lot to like about this movie, and as Abramenko evolves as a director, he’ll likely discover how to better tap into what makes his movies really tick. And what audiences really want.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.