Oksana Akinshina, Pyotr Fyodorov, Fyodor Bondarchuk
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…the escalating tension, the skillfully realised horror set pieces and the solid cast all make this tale gripping and engaging.
There’s a sweet spot between the sci-fi and horror genres, a glorious intersection of the two, and within that halcyon zone exists great bloody movies. Don’t believe us? Try Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), Event Horizon (1997) and Annihilation (2018), all examples of cross-genre excellence. Of course, it’s a hard balancing act and not everyone can get it right. However, Russian film Sputnik gives it a red hot go and the result is pretty damn impressive.
Sputnik tells the tale of psychiatrist Dr. Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), who has been given the top secret task of interviewing cosmonaut Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov), to find out more about his apparent amnesia regarding the death of his copilot. The year is 1983, with the Cold War on its last gasp, so tensions are high and become even more so when Tatyana realises Konstantin has brought something with him from space. Something that’s… not human. As more and more secrets are revealed, our pragmatic heroine must decide whether to side with governmental bureaucracy or the troubled man she feels increasing empathy for, all the while trying to understand the motivations of our extraterrestrial visitor.
Sputnik is a slick and stylish film, gorgeously shot with superb creature design that belies its relatively low budget. It didn’t cost a lot, but that money was spent wisely, and it shows in every gorgeous frame. It’s essentially a three hander, with Tatyana and Konstantin as our main characters, and the rather severe and taciturn Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk) rounding out the cast. Of course, there’s a wee beastie from beyond too, but this is a film best gone into with as little information as possible, so we won’t elaborate too much on that. Point is, the escalating tension, the skillfully realised horror set pieces and the solid cast all make this tale gripping and engaging. And while the ending isn’t quite as mind-blowing as it ought to have been, this is still a very well-told yarn that sits firmly ‘twixt sci-fi and horror, and brings modest but enjoyable helpings of both.