SPUTNIK Review: Ready to Join The Ranks of Great Sci-fi Horror
Doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) is under review for unconventional practices. She is approached by Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk) from the Russian military. They have a special case that needs her kind of thinking. Sensing that her medical career is on the brink she goes with Semiradov to a remote research base to see Cosmonaut Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov). Sergeyevich was on a mission returning to Earth when ground control lost contact with the capsule on its last day. No sooner has Tatiana begun her investigation when she learns the horrible truth. Something came back with the cosmonauts in that capsule and it lives inside Konstantin. Can Tatiana save Konstantin before it's too late?
Don't worry. We have not given away anything in that first paragraph that is tantamount to you enjoying Sputnik. By this point, if you've read or seen anything about Egor Abramenko's debut feature film you'd think they have ceded some big secret fairly quickly by mentioning that something came back with the cosmonauts. Abramenko lays it out there right in the prologue, which is such an excellent scene to start with by the way. Here is the situation, let us watch it spiral out of control, see how our main characters react. Ready?
In Sputnik there is always something to discover and learn as the story progresses. Playing on the long-time belief that the world of Soviet Russia, circa early 1980s, was a world of secrecy and subterfuge, especially within any government agency. This world is perfect for a story that reveals quiet surprise after quiet surprise.
Sputnik's strength comes in its subtlety and matter of factness. They're all professionals here so they're all approaching this extreme situation with a calm and clinical demeanour. Even Sergeyevich constantly reminds everyone of his training as a Cosmonaut has prepared him for any situation, in space and back on Earth. We shall see, we shall see.
Truthfully the most boastful thing in the entire film may just be the score by Oleg Karpachev. Otherwise mostly everything is played close to the chest. Trust us though, when it needs to be gross or violent it delivers wholeheartedly.
We've mentioned in articles leading up to Sputnik's release that Abramenko exhibits tight control of light and color and it makes for impressive production value in the film. Sputnik came with great expectations from us from the start. The high level of his craft is something that we've come to expect from Abramenko over the years, as we have showcased with his short films. There is a reason he was entrusted to handle second unit duties on Fedor Bondarchuk's big budget local scifi hit Attraction. He can shoot darned good film. So we are excited that he can match his visual acuity with strong and well-paced story telling.
Carefully crafted and quietly revealed, Sputnik is a great calling card for this first time feature length director. Abramenko has already drawn the attention of producers and creators in the West; cultivation of his craft should lead to great things. All we ask is that the gap between projects need not be as long as it was between his short films (it was long).
At a time when another upcoming Russian film is drawing comparisons to The Thing, Sputnik is rightly drawing comparisons to Ridley Sott's Alien. It has a great balance of mystery and discovery that gradually builds into excellent horror that should captivate audiences of sci-fi horror. This will be looked back on as one of the sci-fi horror genre's great contemporary offerings.