Science fiction horror can be a difficult genre to break into. Especially when the plot of the story involves a dangerous organism inhabiting someone’s body. The comparison to Ridley Scott’s Alien is inevitable. Sputnik is a Russian film that tries to face this challenge head on. Tatyana Klimova is a neurologist who has been recruited to examine a sole surviving cosmonaut who has returned to Earth. Konstantin Veshnyakov has returned with amnesia and an alien inside of him. Tatyana soon finds herself at odds with more than just the otherly world creature, however.
Sputnik takes place in 1983 during the Cold War. This already lends a grey atmosphere to the movie. There is always a sense of Russia playing catch up with America. This leads to an oppressive feeling with dual sinister motives. One, is covering up any mistakes that may have happened; the other is making sure to convey the feeling Russia is all powerful no matter what the situation may be.
Character development is a bigger part than similar films in the genre. Sputnik deals in some expected tropes, namely the battle between military might and scientific know how. The argument may be familiar, but it is also an easy one for audiences to get behind. Different movies tackle the question in different ways, but it all boils down to should humans use aliens for their own good?
Sputnik loses its way once it becomes more The Last Starfighter and less Alien. It turns out there is more than meets the eye to the surviving cosmonaut. The revelation is an interesting one, but it does not explore as much psychological ground as it can. There is a mix of emotions that should be felt by a person turned from unwilling to host to something more. Unfortunately, that is never addressed.
One of the big selling points of any movie with aliens or monsters or the creatures themselves. Audiences can not help but wonder, what will the thing look like? The tease is part of the fun in seeing what is terrorizing everyone. Sputnik does not drag this out long enough. The alien is revealed surprisingly early, taking away some of the excitement in seeing the movie.
Despite its flaws, Sputnik has a lot going for it. The movie looks into its characters more than most horror movies. This allows a deeper connection from the audience. There is a clear hero and villain, but the writing does a good job of making sure the characters are well rounded. This is especially important since the movie can be so dialogue heavy at times.
One of the signs of a classic piece of work is how influential it is on future generations. A clear example of this is Sputnik. The Russian science fiction horror changes things up, but it was obviously influenced by Alien. This is not a bad thing as many things have been influenced by the movie, but it will be noticed. It has its moments, but the movie definitely has the tell tale signs of directorial debut.
Sputnik will be available in select theaters, digital, and cable VOD August 14