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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review: Sputnik

Director: Egor Abramenko
Screenplay: Oleg Malovinchko and Andrei Zolotarev
Year: 2020

In the midst of the nations’ spatial race of the '80s, two Russian astronauts prepare to return to Earth after their successful space mission. At their return, something goes wrong with their ship that forces them to do a forceful landing on Earth. One of the astronauts does not survive the trip, and the other one, unknowingly, brings an alien creature with him.

Under the pretext of helping the astronaut with his amnesia after the crash landing, a soviet soldier approaches Tatyana, a psychologist whose extreme methods are effective but have caused her problems. Once Tatyana starts treating the astronaut, she realizes that the amnesia is the least of his problems and that there is something dangerous going on. After discovering the existence of an alien creature inside him, the psychologist delves deeper into his relationship with the creature and discovers the true intentions for keeping it alive.

"Sputnik" is technically a creature feature, and it doesn't disappoint in that regard, but this classification fails to expose the complexity of its plot. The screenwriters Oleg Malovinchko y Andrei Zolotarev, the former with previous experience writing alien movies such as “Attraction” and “Invasion”, uses the frame of the arrival and study of the creature on Earth to expose deeper topics. Among the topics developed, power hunger, loyalty to a group or nation contrasted with professional morality, and internal demons that destroy the individual psychology are highlighted.

With topics as deep as these, it is expected that this movie from director Egor Abramenko, in his impressive debut, devotes much time to the development and exploration of its characters and that the film is dialogue-heavy. However, Abramenko masterfully intertwines the plot and character development with small pieces of information about the creature and how the psychologist discovers what is going on inside the military installations to keep the story intriguing and interesting for it almost two hours of runtime. As a response, the viewer submerges more and more into the plot accumulating tension to be released in the eruptive ending, hypnotized by the great acting from Oksana Akinshina (“The Bourne Supremacy”), Fedor Bondarchuk and Pyotr Fyodorov (“The Darkest Hour”).

As a creature feature, “Sputnik” doesn’t disappoint. The alien is revealed early in the story, but it is not overused, and its appearances are strategic for the plot development. The creature is shown using CGI in its entirety, but it looks good, and it manages to look menacing and dangerous by offering violent scenes with the creature as a perpetrator where gore dominates.

“Sputnik” is a modern alien story that combines science fiction and horror to delve deep into perfectly balanced aspects of creature features and psychological horror. The plot is engaging from beginning to end, thanks to the great rhythm in which it is developed and how every discovery offers a new layer. A lot of effort is put into the development of the characters and the plot, but it doesn’t forget to provide the danger and violence expected from a creature feature.

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